Council urges schools to ban army

Doug Beattie
Doug Beattie

Sinn Fein’s support for a motion urging schools to ban the Armed Forces from holding recruitment drives on their premises has been dubbed the “latest in a string of divisive actions” by republicans.

Derry City and Strabane District Council has given the green light to a motion calling for schools in the area to refuse British Armed Forces access to children “as part of their attempt to glamorize/recruit for their imperialist ventures”.

The controversial motion was put forward by Independent Cllr Gary Donnelly, who said the army turned young people into “robotic mindless killers”.

Twenty-four councillors, including Sinn Fein and the independents, voted in favour of the motion. The nine unionist councillors voted against and the SDLP abstained from the vote.

Unionists have highlighted that this latest incident follows a litany of “divisive actions” perpetrated by republicans in recent weeks.

On March 19 Sinn Fein formally suspended Senator Maire Devine for three months after she retweeted a message referring to murdered prison officer Brian Stack as a “sadist prison officer”.

Earlier this week, a unionist councillor accused republicans of “triumphalism and belligerence” after Irish tricolours and a banner bearing the name of a convicted IRA terrorist were erected at a children’s play park in Newry.

And, as reported in the News Letter on Thursday, TUV leader Jim Allister labelled a planned republican “history tour” in Londonderry – due to take place today– as a “blatant glorification of terrorism”. There are fears the event could hark back to a similar event which took place in the city last October, which featured masked men with replica weapons publicly acting out actual PIRA attacks from the Troubles.

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie told the News Letter: “All of these taken together show republicans are deliberately trying to drive a wedge between communities.

“What they have attempted to do with this motion in Londonderry is demonise anyone who serves in or supports our military.

“How does Sinn Fein explain away the work of British military nurses who helped fight the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone? How do they tell children - who are threatened by indiscriminate republican bombs - that the person defusing the bomb and keeping them safe is a British soldier?

“To back a motion that describes the British military, and anyone who serves in it, as ‘robotic mindless killers’ is not only offensive in the extreme but it does a disservice to the many thousands who gave their lives in wars past and conflicts present.”

DUP MLA Gary Middleton said the vote was the latest example of “an extremely divisive agenda” being promoted by the council.

He added: “There is no evidence of respect or equality on display through motions or actions such as these. Not content with increasing tensions within the council there are now attempts to damage wider community relations through motions such as this.”