'Child exploitation' at Easter parades

Published Tuesday, 02 April 2013
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Northern Ireland's Justice Minister David Ford has slammed the involvement of children in dissident republican events over Easter as "disgraceful exploitation".

'Child exploitation' at Easter parades
Pictures of youngsters dressed in paramilitary-style clothing have emerged. (© Twitter)

The strong comments come after police confirmed that children under 10 were involved in rioting in Londonderry, while others took part in an event in Belfast where a masked gunman fired shots.

"I think a lot of people in Northern Ireland will be absolutely horrified at this sight," Mr Ford said.

The Alliance Party leader expressed grave concern that children were being encouraged to adopt old divisions and accept violence.

"It's one thing for them to talk about the glories of the past, but actually exploiting children - it's really becoming utterly cynical the way they are carrying on," he said.

Those who put children into roles like that really need to question what they're up to.

Justice Minister David Ford

Mr Ford admitted that he wasn't sure how easy it would be to address the problem at its heart.

But he added: "I think it's time we started to change society to build a new shared future, not to have people leading children into the ways of division and violence - the types of thing we thought we'd put into the past."

In the Ardoyne area of north Belfast, young children were pictured parading in paramilitary-style clothing - including black berets, black gloves and sunglasses.

But the Republican Network for Unity, who partly organised the event, remained unrepentant.

"I can understand why some people might find that distasteful and I'm sure some people do," spokesman Ciaran Cunningham said.

"Plenty of republicans might share that, but never the less it's not something that's unique to Irish Republicanism. We don't engage in the politics of condemnation. It helps nobody. It helps nothing.

"It doesn't move things forward or backwards, so we don't engage in it."

It amounts to, in my view, child abuse of the worst kind - to glorify terrorism and to use young children in that escapade.

Nigel Dodds, DUP MP

Meanwhile in Derry, youngsters attacked police officers and armoured vehicles at the City Cemetery and in the Creggan estate.

Local Sinn Féin councillor Mickey Cooper warned that involvement in such activities could carry a heavy price for children - some of whom haven't even reached their teens yet.

"If they end up with criminal records, they've got employment difficulties in the future, they've got travel difficulties in the future," he said.

"All because, at a very young age, they got involved in sporadic violence."

While no injuries were reported and no arrests were made, investigations have been launched and calls have been made for lawbreakers to be prosecuted.

"Hopefully, when you see violence inflicted on police lines and on property, that action will be taken," DUP East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said.

"But the sad thing is that young children under the ages of 11 and 12, from what I could see, were caught up in it and used and abused by manipulators."

Police have also said it was a "sad indictment" of the events' organisers, that children were involved.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
109 Comments
Ulysses32 in Belfast wrote (596 days ago):
Seeing as you prefer not to publish my last comment UTV I will be brief. Lorna, remember Drumcree, remember to Quinn family, remember Billy Wright and Mad Dog at Drumcree, remember the guns and explosives found on Drumcree hill after the last "peaceful" protest, remember Reverend Devine, remember Jack McCabe, William Cochrane, Michael McGoldrick.....Just one place in Northern Ireland that can refute your delusion that the the Orange Order is anything but a "sectarian, anti-Catholic, Protestant-supremacist" organisation, something that Lord Kingarth described as "fair comment" while he presided over a particular case in a court of law...
lorna in limavady wrote (599 days ago):
TO SEAMUS DEE AND S. What I said before EDUCATION would be very useful in you case. The Orange order is not responsible for breaking up communities.The dissidents/ provisionals murdered and still trying to do so. Members of the Order has been murdered and still you belt out hate.The unprintable speeches at the field .did you hear them? The Orange order is only doing what the Catholic church has done for years. If our history cannot be taught by them because it is branded bigot then no other religion can do so either.
Shocked in Belfast wrote (602 days ago):
And as for burning the Irish flag.... Don't be such a hypocrite, the union flag gets burnt every August bottom of the falls what has that got to do with anything???? What has the recent flag issue or events got to do with this story... Same old, start attacking other cultures, cause can't handle the truth... That whoever was responsible for this event and making it public to all..big mistake...if it is done in their own community..makes it right??? Why was it filmed for all to view...clearly to cause a reaction...Seriously so if a child is abused in their own home, others should not judge it's under their roof..makes it okay don't make me sick! Good education and heritage that makes me laugh since when did education involve your child being involved in an event with guns!!! Brainwashed springs to mind... You voted for murderers to rule the country, why would this be wrong I suppose.. Total disgrace
Mac in N. Belfast wrote (602 days ago):
People on this forum are saying these children were dressed in terrorist uniforms. Surely terrorists don't wear any kind of uniform as they'd be too easy to spot??? Just an observation from a neutral observer.
S.B. in Belfast wrote (602 days ago):
The Catholic community, in Belfast especially, see no real difference between the various secret Orange societies and Loyalist paramilitary organisations. They are very much intertwined as Loyalist bands affiliated to the UVF, UDA and RHC accompany most of the Lodges and escort them in their marches every year. Many Lodges contain Loyalist paramilitaries as members, some of their banners laud Loyalist murderers and they play sectarian UVF/UDA tunes as they pass by Catholic districts and chapels. The vast majority of trouble at these parades and interfaces is stirred up by UVF/UDA factions so Nationalists will take NO lectures from Unionism/Loyalism. The hypcrisy on here and within the Unionist media really is quite nauseating. Once again the media are acting as Loyalist apologists giving the same airtime and platform to this nonsense as they did to the thuggish flag protestors who used children and babies in prams to block roads and ruin businesses the past 4 months.
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