UUP MLA, Tom Elliott has expressed outrage over reports that an Irish Republican group has been leafleting local schools.
The leaflet, seen by The Fermanagh Herald, is from Lasair Dhearg – an Irish Socialist Republican organisation that was formed back in 2017.
In it, the group speak out against the PSNI’s presence inside schools insisting that educational learning spaces should be a “neutral environment” for children.
However, Mr Elliott accused Lasair Dhearg of intimidation and attempting to stop schools have the police attend for events or provide advice to young people and teachers.
He said: “It is disgraceful that school principals, teachers and governors are subject to such aggressive attempts to intimidate them to not have members of the police service attend their school to provide support and advice in a society where young people can so easily be subjected to unlawful and criminal activity.
“It is imperative that the police are provided with all opportunities available to ensure they can minimise the risk of law-breaking.”
However, in response, Lasair Dhearg insist that the PSNI are using school visits as “PR exercises” which regularly expose schoolchildren to “life-taking weapons”.
Party chairman, Pól Torbóid, said: “This week, we have sent correspondence to every school across the Six Counties in relation to the PSNI.
“As the new school year has begun, we are seeking the ongoing support of every educational establishment in keeping learning spaces neutral environments.
“This is in relation to PSNI personnel deliberately attending school, community and youth spaces as part of ongoing public relations exercises designed to win the hearts and minds of communities across the six counties. We are seeking their commitment with this in the interest of good community relations and child protection.
“Many of these public relations stunts include the use of riot shields, jeeps, attack dogs and the showcasing of lethal, life-taking weapons, such as baton round guns, Glock pistols and automatic assault rifles. The PSNI regularly publishes images of young people holding these weapons.
“For too long now our children have been used as pawns in a political public relations exercise endorsed by the state.
“Let’s leave the PSNI at the school gate and allow our children an education free from the risks involved in having armed gunmen in their classrooms.”
Replying to Lasair Dhearg’s claims, Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton of the PSNI said: “Police are aware of a letter that has been circulated to multiple schools across Northern Ireland.
“Our presence in schools is about working with young people to prevent them from becoming victims of crime, helping ensure their safe travel to and from school and educating them on how their actions impact others in their community.
“We’re grateful to schools and young people for their continued support and look forward to working with them throughout this school year and beyond.”
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