• March 2, 2015


Following a submission to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child about the recruitment by the British Armed Forces of children under 18 years of age the Celtic League has written to the Irish government enclosing a copy.

The League have previously raised the issue of recruitment by the British Armed Forces in Ireland and the ease with which they (the British MOD) were able to access Irish agencies to verify data.

The previous Irish (Fianna Fáil) government rejected the League’s concerns and said that:

“enlistment of Irish citizens in a Foreign Army is a matter of individual choice”.

In the latest correspondence the League point out that UK MOD targeting of children below 18 years of age, especially those from deprived backgrounds, has been condemned internationally.

They urge An Taoiseach to ensure that Irish children under 18 are not targeted and restate their general opposition to recruitment by the UK of Irish Nationals to serve in their armed forces.

The text of the letter:

“An Taoiseach, Mr Enda Kenny, TD
Department of the Taoiseach
Government Buildings
Upper Merrion Street
Dublin 2

28th February 2015

Dear Taoiseach,

You may be aware that we have over the past several years raised with the Irish government the question of the recruitment of Irish citizens into the British Armed Forces or any Foreign Army.

The response from the government was that (to quote Defence Minister Willie O’Dea TD):

“Any enlistment of Irish citizens in a Foreign Army is a matter of individual choice” – August 2008.

If this remains the policy of the Irish government I would venture that is at the very least it is inprudent in these turbulent times of conflict globally.

However, notwithstanding that the Irish government disagreed with our concerns (which we still have) at that time I trust there is something that we can agree on. That is that the recruitment of children as (age) defined by the UNCRC should not be countenanced.

I enclose with this letter a copy of a letter sent today to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). In the letter we set our concerns over the policy of the British Armed Forces of recruiting children under the age of 18 years. This is a policy that the UK has been criticized in the past over and it is also the subject of criticism by an independent enquiry into the deaths of several young recruits some years ago. In addition as we point out to the UNCRC in our view it is also very likely a policy which breaches several ILO conventions on the employment of children.

Now the issue that brought our focus on British Army recruitment in Ireland several years ago was the fact that according to news reports at the time young unemployed people in the Limerick area had a career in the British Army suggested to them by careers offices.

We also found out later (following an enquiry by a journalist on an Irish language newspaper) that the State Examination Commission provided details to the British Army on request of young peoples exam result details. They told the journalist in question in April 2011:

“A request for examination results by a prospective employer such as the UK Armed Forces would be treated by the SEC in the same way as we treat all other requests for statements of results. The SEC will only release examination results on foot of a request directly from the candidate. To facilitate prospective employers and if the candidate requests it, we will post these results to the employer.”

They also added:

“In those circumstances, where the employer already has a copy of the results, the SEC will confirm/deny the validity of the information contained on the statement of results.”

The cross referencing with agencies in Ireland also extends beyond the SEC. In September 2010 the British Army told us:

“There is little more I can add to my previous response, but I would like to address the additional question raised in your letter: “I wondered how the MOD (British Army) are able to follow-up on any in formation supplied by an applicant from the Republic of Ireland without cross-referencing data supplied with individuals or agencies in that country.”

All soldier applicants are required to supply the name and address of one referee and recruiters are required to verify up to three years of an applicant’s academic/employment history as part of the Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS) check”

I sincerely hope that if your own governments policy is the same as that outlined in relation to recruitment generally by the former Defence Minister (Mr O’Dea) then you will take steps to ensure that the recruitment of children below the age of 18 is not allowed and that processes used by the British to cross reference recruitment applications is not undertaken by agencies in Ireland if the person in question is a minor.

I do hope to discuss the wider implications of this issue with our Irish branch colleagues when we meet in a few weeks time.

Yours sincerely

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information”

Related links here:



J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information


(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur.)


The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues

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