Barnardos Ireland are facing a backlash on social media after teaming up with Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams to promote its “Lost Childhood Campaign”.
Critics are accusing the charity of gross insensitivity due to the number of children murdered and traumatised by the party’s military wing, the IRA.
The charity’s “Lost Childhood Campaign” says that “1 in 7 children in Ireland are lost to homelessness, to poverty and to neglect”.
It adds: “The children’s charity, which works with more than 15,000 families annually, wants to engage individuals, other organisations and the Government to tackle this injustice. They proposed a range of solutions that if actioned in the short-term, will change the lives of children in Ireland forever.”
In a tweet on Tuesday, the charity posted a photograph of six Sinn Fein representatives - including Gerry Adams - who had come to visit the charity, against the backdrop of its campaign posters.
However a stream of angry people on social media slammed the charity, listing a string of children killed by the IRA.
Speaking to the News Letter after the tweet, Sammy Heenan described it as “bordering on the absurd”.
He was orphaned by the IRA, aged 12, when they murdered his last remaining parent near Castlewellan in 1985.
He was asleep in bed on their Co Down farm when he heard a gun shot and his father scream outside his bedroom window.
“This charity needs to consider the number of orphans Sinn Fein-IRA created and the numbers of lost childhoods they created as result,” he said.
“I lost my home and father thanks to Sinn Fein-IRA and Sinn Fein has repeatedly refused to engage with me when I asked them to condemn his murder.”
But the charity itself has taken significant criticism directly on Twitter.
In response to the tweet, the TUV’s Sammy Morrison tweeted a photograph of Kathryn Eakin, who was eight-years-old when murdered by the IRA bomb in Claudy.
“Did you raise the issue when you hosted their political wing today?” he asked.
One poster urged Barnardos not to tell Sinn Fein that Dr Barnardo was an Orangeman, a fact the order is very proud of.
Another onlooker branded the charity’s tweet “a sick joke” adding: “what about Liam Adams case?”
Mr Adam’s brother, Liam, was jailed for sexually abusing his own daughter.
Another onlooker posted a link to the story of how the IRA admitted shooting dead a 14-year-old Catholic girl in Derry in 1973, despite having previously blamed the army.
Kathleen Feeney, the sister of an SDLP councillor, was killed by a single bullet fired by a gunman aiming at troops on patrol near her home in the city’s Bogside.
Meanwhile high profile Irish Senator Máiría Cahill, who says she was raped by an IRA man as a teenager, also interjected on Twitter. She asked Barnardos to read an article she wrote about the IRA abduction and murder of Jean McConville from west Belfast.
The Catholic mother-of-ten was abducted from Divis Flats by the IRA in 1972 and murder, leaving behind all ten of her children to fend for themselves.
A poster called @William37290640 drew attention to 14-year-old Nicholas Knatchbull, grandson of Lord Mountbatten, both of who were killed in an IRA bomb attack on their fishing boat in Co Sligo in 1979. A local youth, 15-year-old Paul Maxwell was also killed in the bombing.
Also placed into the twitter thread was a photograph of the two children “slaughtered” by the IRA in a bomb attack on Warringston Shopping Centre in 1993. They were three year old Johnathan Ball and 12-year-old Tim Parry.
“Their crime buying a Mother’s Day card. You’re a disgrace,” the poster said to Barnardos.
However not all the tweeters attacked Sinn Fein.
@Seamusohurl1, who describes himself as an Irish language activist and hurler from Co Down who is into politics and journalism, challenged the party’s critics.
“Why so much rage against Sinn Fein?” he asked.
Barnardos Ireland said it had no comment to make at present.
Sinn Fein responded that it fully supports the Barnardo’s ‘Lost Childhood’ campaign.
Barnardos Northern Ireland pointed out it was completely independent from the southern branch of the charity.