The Irish Independent has been getting into a moral lather of late about ‘child soldiers’. It is expressing its horror that as many as nineteen republican ‘child soldiers’ died during the years of conflict here. Closer reading reveals that most were killed by the accidental discharge of guns or bombs and six were shot dead by the British army. The fact that the Indo emphasises that use of ‘child soldiers’ is a war crime tells you all you need to know about that organ’s concern: to pin another label marked ‘monster’ on prominent members of Sinn Féin.
There are several other points worth remembering on this issue.
The deaths of the young weren’t air-brushed out of existence by republicans during the years of conflict. In fact, the name of Na Fianna were published in An Phoblacht.
The notion that ‘child soldiers’ might be something exclusive to the IRA would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic. Many countries put considerable weight on training child soldiers. What would you call the British Army Cadets, which advertises for recruits between 12-18, even widening their recruiting drive to include youngsters in Year 8. Or the Air Training Corps? Here’s part of its advertising campaign directed at young people between 13 and 18:
“We’ll teach you to handle a variety of weapons safely. Basic firing is always done lying on your stomach (the prone position) at static targets. Progress through the syllabus and you’ll experience different types of weapons, firing positions and could even take part in shooting competitions if you really prove your skills.”
The British Army Cadets and the Air Training Corps may not employ their recruits in active combat until they’re 17, but they train them for that day. In its report, the Indo concedes that “During the early period of the Troubles, in the early 1970s, the IRA recruited large numbers of teenagers into the ranks of the Fianna and gCailini. They were mainly trained in basic firearms and soldiering in camps in the Republic.” Sounds like the British Army Cadets or Air Training Corps to me.
If it hasn’t been already clear, it should by now be clear that the Irish Independent and the Sunday Independent are part of a right-wing campaign as surely as Fox News is part of a right-wing campaign in the US. Fox News’s target is the Clintons (just watch how they go after Hillary); the Indo’s target is Gerry Adams and republicans. In their ‘child soldiers’ story, they make reference to “the so-called Ballymurphy Massacre”. Ask the relatives of those killed whether they think it was a “so-called” massacre.
The taking of human life and the training of young people to take human life is a terrible thing, regardless of its source. But for the Indo to pretend that this isn’t normal practice in Britain, where ads extolling the attraction of such training can easily be found, is to show how bankrupt the Indo/Sindo is as a reliable source of news.