• April 4, 2011

The Celtic League has written to the Children’s Commissioner for Northern Ireland (NICCY) supporting her recently stated views on the militarization of children (text below).

The NICCY spoke out after children were pictured at a community centre in military clothing and holding replica weapons.

The League has asked the NICCY to extend her concerns to the operation of cadet forces which militarise children and provide them with training in the use of real weapons. The League has also reiterated its view that the targeting of schools for military recruitment is inappropriate.

The League also intend to canvass Children’s Commissioners in Scotland and Wales and urge them to intervene to ensure that international standards aimed at protecting young people from militarisation are not breached.

“Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People
Ms Patricia Lewsley
Millennium House
17-25 Great Victoria Street


Dear Ms Lewsley,

I noted your concerns recently about children dressed in military fatigues and carrying replica weapons at a social event at a community centre in Northern Ireland.

I understand that you are enquiring into this incident and have cited the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the responsibilities of governments in relation to same.

I agree with you wholeheartedly that the militarisation of children is to be deplored and international standards aimed at protecting young people from such militarisation should not be breached. I trust that in addition to enquiring into this incident you will broaden your agenda to include the operation of military cadet forces in Northern Ireland. You will of course be aware that the military cadet forces encourage children to involve themselves in an interest in military weaponry and also facilitate training not with `replica’ but with real weapons. I think you might usefully look at the discussion which takes place involving young people about weaponry on the various military cadet related internet forums.

Although ostensibly not directly an adjunct of the Ministry of Defence the Cadet Forces are `sponsored’ by the UK government with facilities and support through the MOD. Many cadets go on to serve in the armed forces (which is encouraged). You will be aware that over the past decade the age at which the UK enlisted and deployed young people was a concern to the UNCRC – although requirements on the deployment on active service of young people (i.e. under eighteens are now in place). There is no doubt that the operation of the cadet forces is a factor in the militarisation of some children who join the Services at an early age.

I note from your comments that you also took a forceful stance on the role and responsibility of adults where the militarisation of children in concerned. In relation to this we have had a concern for sometime about the recruitment initiatives in schools and the manner in which the UK MOD undertake this. I understand that some educational bodies have also expressed a concern (NUT Annual Conference 2008 also Educational Institute of Scotland 2007). I do hope that you can find time to visit this issue also and feel sure you will agree it is important early life career choices of young people are not manipulated.

For information (stimulated by your recent statement) and by our own research we will be writing in a similar vein to Children’s Commissioners in other UK jurisdictions.

Yours sincerely

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information”

Related links on CL NEWS refer to the NUT and EIS decisions mentioned in the letter:


J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League


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