NEWS FROM THE CELTIC LEAGUE
The Northern Ireland Children’s Commissioner has responded to concerns we raised with her in June.
The Commissioner is on record as expressing concern about the appearance of very young children at parades in Northern Ireland in uniform. The Celtic League said that this was a concern we shared.
However we also said that we were equally as concerned about the operation of military cadet forces in which young children were not only encouraged to parade in uniform but are also encouraged to participate in weapons training.
Our query to the Commissioner (which reiterates an earlier stance taken be the League) is set out here:
In response Commissioner Lewsley-Mooney says:
“28th June 2013
NICCY ref: 201100008
Dear Mr Moffatt
RE: Military Cadet Forces
Thank you for your letter dated 1st June 2013. I have noted the concerns you expressed in your letter.
You may be aware that I have made various public statements condemning irresponsible adults who put children and young people at risk due to their actions. I maintain this position in respect of all children in Northern Ireland.
I enclose for your information a copy of a letter which I sent to every political party in Northern Ireland setting out the actions which I took with the relevant authorities which fall under my remit following the recent referrals made to me regarding young people dressed in paramilitary clothing.
I trust that this assists.
The text of the letter she refers to is set out below:
Following on from the meeting on Friday 5 April 2013 with a delegation led by DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds, Minister Nelson McCausland and William Humphreys MLA, I had committed to providing feedback on my enquiries with the relevant authorities to them and to all political parties, which I have outlined as follows.
I explained at the meeting on 5 April that I had already contacted the PSNI (James Johnston of Tenant Street CID) and the feedback from them was that they had assessed the second incident (children in paramilitary grab) against their `child cruelty threshold’ and in this instance, it did not meet the threshold to necessitate action on their part. However, they did inform me that they would be contacting Social Services on the matter of assessing around `significant harm’, highlighting that once contact had been made, their role was then complete.
On contacting Social Services (Cecil Worthington) I was informed that I was the first person who had contacted him. He informed me that in order to proceed with this issue he would need to have had a complaint or referral from PSNI, GP etc, and that the PSNI and Social Services have the opportunity to work together through the Gateway Teams. In this case nothing at present had been referred to them by anyone. However, they would explore issues further within their own resources, particularly if it was thought that there was a `child protection issue’.
I subsequently met with the Head of the Parades Commission (Peter Osborne) who explained that he had met with you also. He outlined that the process for the Parades Commission would be to write to the band organisers asking a number of questions in relation to obtaining clarification about both incidents — noting that until they received a reply, the Commission could not, at that time, set out to me what the next steps would be, if any.
Safeguarding Board NI
I then spoke with the SBNI (Hugh Connor) and was informed that no one had yet been in touch with them, but also informed me they would only become involved if an issue of child protection had been raised with them by another organisation.
I hope you find this information useful.
It is clear from the correspondence that the Commissioner cannot bring herself to unambiguously condemn the operation of military cadet forces in the context of the militarization of children.
As indicated in the earlier correspondence the Celtic League will be pursuing the issue with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
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