Sad scenes at Derry parade show children ‘groomed’ for violence – peace priest

Sad scenes at Derry parade show children ‘groomed’ for violence – peace priest Fr Martin Magill

The scenes of young people carrying petrol bombs during a parade in Derry on Easter Monday were “sad and shocking”, highlighting how the young are “groomed” for violence, a prominent peace priest has warned.

Police said they saw evidence of youths preparing petrol bombs before an illegal dissident republican parade in Creggan, Co. Derry, on March 31.

A van was set on fire and petrol bombs were reportedly thrown at journalists as several hundred people marched, led by masked men in paramilitary-style uniforms.

Fr Martin Magill, a priest who has played a prominent role in peace-building efforts in the North, told The Irish Catholic the events at the parade shows “we can’t rest on our laurels” while young people in the North are being “groomed” for violence by their elders.

“People are still being shocked by these scenes, seeing children and young people involved yesterday afternoon, throwing petrol bombs – it’s shocking, it’s really sad and it left me thinking, ‘oh no’,” said Fr Magill.

Fr Magill, a member of Stop Attacks, a grassroots organisation dedicated to eradicating paramilitary style violence, said that young people are being actively coerced into criminal behaviour.

Referencing a Stop Attacks statement describing the activity as “grooming” and “child abuse”, the Belfast cleric said he believes the words accurately describes what is taking place.

“It recognises the coercive control by adults who will play some part in facilitating young people to get access to petrol [for bombs] and assist with that,” Fr Magill said.

“There’s serious issues around that,” he said, adding that it is difficult to prove there was some sort of grooming going on.

The events at Monday’s march came after a study from the North’s Department of Justice suggested the influence of paramilitary activity is waning.

The proportion of respondents to the North’s Safe Community Telephone Survey who felt paramilitary activity was widespread in their area fell from 15% in 2020/21 to 11% in 2022/23.

Fr Magill praised the work of youth clubs and youth leaders, politicians and police to tackle the scourge of paramilitary activity in the North’s communities.

However, he also noted that the number of paramilitary style attacks rose between 2022 and 2023, saying that in addition to the scenes in Creggan, this shows “there is a lot of work still to do”.