Sunday 17 November 2019

Charity lashed online over fundraiser with British Army

JEROME REILLY

THE Jack & Jill Foundation, the cash-strapped charity that helps children with severe neurological problems and their families, has become a hate target after the charity was linked to a planned concert by a British Army band.

The charity has been singled out for an abusive campaign on the internet after it was revealed that it would receive badly needed funds from a charity dinner and concert planned for Michael Smurfit's K Club featuring the band of the Irish Guards.

The Irish Guards, which has a long tradition of recruits from north and south of the Border and to whom Kate Middleton presented shamrock last St Patrick's Day, have played music in Ireland before -- most notably in 2000 when they played at three events in Dublin including a joint recital with the Irish Defence Forces band.

They have been invited to play at the K Club by an organisation representing uniformed staff from the Republic's fire, ambulance, coast guard and Defence Forces as well as the gardai. The organisation, known as SESIF (Security & Emergency Services Ireland Forum), nominated the Jack & Jill Foundation as the beneficiaries of any monies raised from the event.

HSE cutbacks mean that the services the charity has provided for children with severely compromised neurological development are being stretched to breaking point and it needs to raise €2m this year.

But the charity's Facebook page has been hijacked by dozens of abusive messages -- because of the link to the British Army's Irish regiment.

One typical message of opposition stated: "It's a pity that the Jack & Jill Foundation are helping to put nails in the coffins of children in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, through their support for the British Army serial child killers."

The message was typical of many postings to the charity's social networking site, critical of Jack & Jill benefiting from an event that featured the Irish Guards. Other messages criticised the Irish Guards' involvement in the Troubles.

The charity's CEO and founder Jonathan Irwin responded with his own message, stating: "In answer to the question about the Jack & Jill Foundation's involvement in the band of the Irish Guards at the K Club on Friday October 5, we are there to raise much-needed funds for home nursing care for the 300 severely disabled children under our wing.

"Indeed, we were honoured to get the invitation from the SESIF, whose members are drawn from all the uniformed services in Ireland, to be the recipient charity for this event.

"This is not the first time the Irish Guards' band has performed in Ireland; they played with the Number 1 Irish Army band in April 2000 in a joint performance in the National Concert Hall, and also played in St Patrick's Cathedral and Dublin Castle on that visit."

Mr Irwin also outlined that with less than 18 per cent of its budget coming from the HSE, Jack & Jill has to raise more than €2m this year to keep this vital service going.

"We are grateful for all the help and support we can get," he added.

Other messages contained threats of protests at the event.

"Instead of attempting to dodge the issue, pathetically alluding to the number of times this murder gang has played in Ireland before (who cares?), the Jack & Jill foundation ought to show respect to the regiment's victims and pull the event. If not, it will be vigorously opposed," said one message.

Another poster added: "What about the children killed and mutilated by the British Army, what about the children left motherless and without fathers, what about the children who had their brothers and sisters killed? Expect opposition to this event."

Sunday Independent

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