The PSNI has been condemned over its recruitment of child informers, details of which they have again refused to disclose.
Since at least 2006, an unknown number of children have been used to spy on their families and communities. The PSNI have declined to answer a request for information on the policy, citing “health and safety concerns” and “national security”.
Commenting on the situation, the Six County Children and Young People’s Commissioner, Koulla Yiasouma, said that it is “never appropriate for any child to be placed at risk in this manner”. She said children should never be used as a “Covert Intelligence Source” by any Crown Force agency.
Republican groups have also condemned the policy, which was highlighted by a Freedom of Information request by Belfast media.
“Within our communities this is wrong and always will be wrong,” said Sean Given of Saoradh.
“Not that long ago [PSNI Chief] Simon Byrne said live on TV that children could be taken away from their parents as part of a drive against republicans. It needs to be asked, what way would this work regarding putting a child at risk by using children as informers?”
He warned that children were being encouraged to engage in anti-community behaviour, as Crown Forces would “turn a blind eye” if that meant getting some information on republicans within that community.
“Children these days know the difference between right and wrong; and I feel that Crown Forces using children in this way could have a long-term effect on those very children and their mental health. The bottom line would be causing serious harm on the community targeted.”
Mr Given pointed to the plight of those who were persuaded by the Crown Forces in the past to inform on their community.
“Just look at [Raymond] Gilmore and [Denis] Donaldson and on-the-run [Dennis] McFadden –– they have a lonely life, two of them died lonely, and another lives in hiding for having been an informant. This isn’t something that children should face,” he said.
“While it’s also welcoming that Children and Young People’s Commissioner, Koulla Yiasouma, expressed concern about the use of child informants, it’s worth noting that this won’t change how the occupier will use children. Shame on them.”
The Irish Republican Socialist Party Assembly election candidate in West Belfast, Dan Murphy, challenged other local candidates in the forthcoming election to express their views on the issue, but said he had not received a response.
“Not one of these candidates responded to the pledge which, in its most basic form is to challenge the PSNI from committing a form of child abuse, by manipulating usually vulnerable underage kids to become informers,” he said.