Boys’ Brigade officer and MLA Roy Beggs is calling for Jude Collins to apologise for appearing to compare members of the Christian youth organisation to young people taking part in a dissident Republican paramilitary parade.
On Tuesday, Mr Collins replied to a tweet of images of children taking part in a an illegal parade organised by Republican Sin Fein in Lurgan’s Kilwilkie estate on Saturday May 28.
A number of children were pictured alongside ranks of masked men in paramilitary garb.
A boy was pictured dressed in a similar style of clothing, and a young girl in her First Communion dress was also present.
Responding to the image, Mr Collins posted a picture of the Boys Brigade under the caption “a bit like this then.”
He then tweeted: “Why is ‘brigade’ in its title? And why do they march, military style?”
“The BB is a ‘brigade’, it marches, it wears uniforms and berets…Odd echoes of something there…”
After a backlash on social media, he added: “OK – not the same, fair enough. But are there any militaristic features in BB?
“Agreed. But do they march, have ranks, wear berets, have companies, squadrons, brigades??”
Mr Beggs, who has been a Boys’ Brigade Officer for 19 years, is now calling for Mr Collins to withdraw his remarks.
“It is deeply offensive for a commentator to compare a church based youth organisation with dissident republicans in masked paramilitary uniform,” he stated.
“The BB is involved in charity fundraising, volunteering for the benefit of the community and many young men participate in the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, gaining skills that will benefit them and their community.
“How could anyone compare the BB with violent paramilitaries?
“Dissident republican gang members have recently been involved in murderous activity on both sides of the border.
“Surely the focus of any right thinking commentator should be on ending paramilitary activity, rather than causing offence to boys, parents and officers belonging to one of the main church based youth organisations in Northern Ireland?
“I call on Jude Collins to withdraw his crass comparison and to apologise for the offence he has caused.
“Should he fail to do so, I would urge all media outlets to consider how continued use of this commentator reflects on them.”
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