A paramilitary-linked charity said it would take the classes into primary schools to ‘educate’ children
Action for Community Transformation (ACT) Initiative posted images online of children and adults making models alongside pictures of a model bonfire as well as a model caravan and hut, both of which had UVF daubed on the side.
The post has since been deleted.
ACT, which is dedicated to rehabilitating former UVF gangsters and has some convicted killers on its board of directors, posted the images on one of their Facebook pages last week.
The caption read: “The model club met to start on projects for the winter months, one of which will include bonfire building which will be taken into local primary schools educating the children on the bonfire theme.”
The images and proposal by ACT to take the workshop into primary schools caused outrage on social media with Twitter users expressing their despair at the idea.
Tim Maloy labelled it “sectarianism being taught at schools” while fellow user Constance Short said: “How could anyone believe there is an ounce of creativity in building bonfires, a symbol of hate, and there is nothing historical about them either. How old is the pallet?”
Josie C added: “That’s not education. That’s indoctrination and brainwashing.”
ACT Initiative is a UVF-linked registered charity which receives thousands of pounds of public money from peace initiatives including £365,000 from the government in the Republic of Ireland. ACT and the Education Authority did not respond to requests for comment.
The organisation was given charitable status in 2015 and operates out of a building on Belfast’s Shankill Road. Four convicted UVF killers sit on its nine-person board of trustees — PUP councillor Billy Hutchison, Tom Roberts, Tom Winstone and Ron McMurray.
Loyalist activist Jamie Bryson, who stressed he has no connections to ACT and was speaking in a personal capacity, said he didn’t know what all the fuss was about.
“People are entitled to take whatever view they want of the past, I’ve made mine pretty clear and that won’t change,’’ he said.
“In regards ACT it is an organisation which does much fantastic conflict transformation work. Loyalism is entitled to commemorate it history.”