Council backs Army school recruitment ban

Army campaign Image copyright MOD
Image caption The motion was proposed by independent councillor Gary Donnelly and was supported by Sinn Féin and independent members

A Northern Ireland council has called on local schools to ban the armed forces from school recruitment events.

A motion was put forward at a meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council in Londonderry on Thursday.

It was proposed by independent councillor Gary Donnelly and was supported by 20 Sinn Féin and independent members - meaning the motion was passed by a simple majority.

Unionist councillors opposed the move while the SDLP abstained from the vote.

Councillor Donnelly's proposal said: "Given the history of British imperialism in Ireland, this Council calls on local educational facilities for children and young people to refuse British Armed Forces access to children/pupils as part of their attempt to glamorise/recruit for their imperialist ventures."

He said he put forward the motion to oppose Britain's policy of recruiting "child soldiers".

"Children at 16 can not smoke, drive or drink alcohol but they can be accepted into the Army, they can be stripped down psychologically and trained to kill," he said.

Cllr Donnelly said he was disappointed by unionist reaction to the motion.

'Extremely divisive'

"Unionists have a duty to protect children too, particularly when it is working class, low income unionist areas that recruitment targets."

Foyle DUP MLA Gary Middleton said the motion was "extremely divisive" and unenforceable.

"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," he said.

"The council has absolutely no power to enforce this or tell local schools what to do."

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie, who represents Upper Bann, said Sinn Féin's "respect, equality and integrity agenda is in tatters".

"For Sinn Fein to back a motion - no matter how ludicrous - to prevent anyone considering a career in the British military receiving career advice while at school sets a clear sectarian agenda," he said.

'Disastrous wars'

He claimed the actions of their councillors in backing the motion sent "a clear message" to unionists that they are not welcome and would never "be welcome in any United Ireland in which we have any influence".

In a statement, Sinn Féin said it supported the motion "because we don't believe that any army should be recruiting schoolchildren".

"That is a position shared by many anti-war organisations in Britain so to suggest this is anti-unionist is preposterous," it added.

"It is also highly inappropriate to promote the British Army to schoolchildren given its appalling record in Ireland and in a series of illegal and disastrous wars around the globe."