22 May 1997 Edition

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British Army invites children to base

By Mick Naughton

Worried nationalist parents have contacted Sinn Fein after they found out that the British army are attempting to include their children, some at primary school, in a `sports' day scheduled for Friday 23 May at Belfast's largest military base, Girdwood in North Belfast.

Sinn Féin North Belfast representatives, Bobby and Danny Lavery, Mick Conlon and Paddy McManus contacted schools in North Belfast in an attempt to find out was going on.

``At present the British army's Royal Tank Regiment occupy Girdwood barracks, using it as their base to launch punitive early morning raids with the RUC in Ardoyne, Bone and New Lodge areas. What do they intend displaying and demonstrating to schoolchildren at this so-called sports day? How to drive a tank, fire an SA80 of the type used to kill New Lodge teenager Peter McBride?'' asked the four in a statement.

St Vincent de Paul principal Brian Partland confirmed that his school had received an invitation to ``a sports session.'' However, he added that educational law provided that parents needed to sign a consent form for their child to go.

Other Catholic schools in North Belfast have not received invitations prompting the question, who compiles the invitation list for the British army?

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