A former republican prisoner has accused his daughters’ Catholic school of becoming a tool of oppression after British Army soldiers were allowed to make a presentation.
Troops were at the event at a nearby school on Wednesday morning and set up a promotional stand. Images of pupils with the British Army stall in the background were later put on the internet.
“As a parent of two children who presently attend Mercy College Belfast, I am extremely proud of the school’s achievements,” one parent wrote.
“As a north Belfast republican socialist and a former republican prisoner, my views of the British Army have been recorded sufficiently over the years without further elaboration being required. I am shocked, saddened and angry tonight. But most of all I am deeply disappointed by these grotesque images that are being circulated by Mercy College.
“The school is better than being used as a weapon of normalisation. Enlistment into British Crown forces, for my children, or indeed any child who lives in Ardoyne, Ligoniel or the Marrowbone communities, would mean immediate displacement, conflict-related threat and quite possibly death.
“It is only a few years ago that a serving member of British Crown forces was targeted in a republican grenade attack just yards from our home and less than a mile from the gates of Mercy College.”
He warned that the pictures would cause hurt to victims of the state forces during the conflict.
“If we are to forget about the huge legacy issues which remain in our community and the multiple war crimes that have been committed by British Crown force thugs here, if we are to join in the pretence that there is no conflict in Ireland and therefore we focus solely upon the defence and the well-being of our children, then we must challenge those responsible for this recruitment campaign that was waged against vulnerable children who are oblivious to the dangers lurking behind feigned smiles and fancy posters,” he wrote.
Saoradh said the schoolgirls had been pictured being introduced to serving British soldiers in an attempt to “recruit working class youth to serve in Britain’s imperialist excursions”. They said it was “particularly grotesque” because Mercy College’s pupils are drawn from many families and communities who suffered the brunt of state murder and collusion, including the murders of local schoolchildren.
“In addition, the British Army and MI5 have recently been guilty of ongoing assaults, raids and attacks on North Belfast residents on a regular basis. This includes a number of parents and siblings of Mercy College pupils,” they said.
“Despite claims to the contrary, thousands of British soldiers remain here in the Six Counties, with an additional unknown number of MI5 operatives based at a #25million building in Palace Barracks.
“Saoradh have advised these parents to contact Mercy College and demand that their children are not introduced to the British Army, nor used in public relations exercises that seek to normalise their ongoing occupation of Ireland. We will continue to support these parents and their children.”
The party has also warned that schools across the Six Counties are being used as “recruiting sergeants” for the police. In Newry and in Derry, Saoradh said it had been told by parents of recent visits to schools by armed members of the PSNI. Among the concerns raised was the fact that no prior notification was given nor was any consent sought from parents.
One concerned parent told them: “For over 30 years myself and my family have suffered immensely at the hands of the British Crown Forces, including the RUC, and in more recent years the PSNI. My children have also endured abuse at their hands. To not even be notified or consulted that they would be visiting the school carrying firearms in the vicinity of my child is outrageous”.