Northern Ireland riots would not have turned violent if the children involved had participated in the Duke of Edinburgh award, the former Irish president has said.
Mary McAleese made her comments after it was revealed children had taken part in some of the riots last week and three male teenagers, who were all aged 14, were arrested on Friday night.
Ms McAleese said the unrest involved young people “who are still being taught to hate and who are bringing that hatred and expressing it out on the streets”.
Ms McAleese said the recent death of Prince Philip reminded her how the Duke of Edinburgh Award galvanised “the curiosity and the wonder and the energy of youth”, as she questioned what “experience” of life children rioting in Belfast had.
She added: “These are young people, I guarantee you, none of them will ever have done a Duke of Edinburgh Award, unfortunately.”
The award was established in 1956 to encourage young people to discover volunteering and the outdoors. Since it was launched around eight million have taken part, where they learnt self-sufficiency, teamwork and leadership.
Many have credited the award as being a formative turning point in their lives. Levison Wood, former military officer and now a professional explorer, tweeted: “The DoE Award gave me an insight into life beyond my own village as a teenager. It inspired me to travel, taught me the beauty of the outdoors, saved me from getting into serious trouble and got me into the British Army as an Officer.”
Ms McAleese added that the recent unrest was a result of “a vacuum of the leadership” in Northern Ireland and cautioned that “there is bound to be the consequences of Brexit”.
“If we go back to Brexit, we realise how little consideration was given in the planning of Brexit and the referendum, of the impact that would have in Northern Ireland,” she said.