Peacekeepers and members of the Irish Defence Forces will visit local schools in the coming months hoping to inspire students.

Under the Global Schools Programme, which was launched last week, Irish diplomats and peacekeepers will visit every secondary school in the State in 2019.

They will talk to students about their work overseas and explain how UN membership has played a role in Ireland’s history.

More than 700 schools will be presented with a UN flag and a copy of the preamble of the UN Charter.

Following last week’s launch Minister Katherine Zappone said the visits will give students a chance to hear how Irish people are keeping the peace in trouble spots around the world and “hopefully inspire some local students to follow in their footsteps.”

Military recruitment in schools is a controversial topic and one we decided to put to local politicians.

In 2016 the UN committee on the rights of the child told the UK government to “reconsider its active policy of recruitment of children into the armed forces and ensure that recruitment practices do not actively target persons under the age of 18 and ensure that military recruiters’ access to schools be strictly limited”.

With this in mind Dublin Gazette asked local TDs the following:

Do you think it’s appropriate the UN and Irish Defence Forces are visiting local schools to “inspire” children to join the army?

Here are their responses:

Minister Katherine Zappone: “The Irish Defence Forces are unique in Europe and have a proud and unrivalled tradition of peacekeeping during which many have put their lives on the line during United Nation’s mandated missions.

“In an uncertain world it is right that second level students should learn about this work with the UN and the thousands of lives which Irish men and women have saved.

John Lahart (FF): “Yes I do. The Defence Forces do amazing work and it is really important that young people are aware of the role of our defence forces

Sean Crowe (SF): “I know that the Irish Defence Forces are actively trying to recruit more women personnel for their work in peace keeping and personally don’t have any difficulty in Defence Force personnel outlining the transformative work they are involved in with the UN.

Paul Murphy (SOL): “I think it is definitely inappropriate to be encouraging school students to join the army, if that is what is taking place. Soldiers remain woefully underpaid and are badly treated, denied the right to union organisation. This is added to by the role that unfortunately the UN plays in supporting imperialist interventions, for example of French imperialism in its former African colonies like Mali.”

Gino Kenny (PBP): Some peace keeping under the auspices of the United Nations has led to some Irish army personnel being killed in military service…Hearing members of the army speaking about their experience in areas of conflict and witnessing first-hand how conflict and strife does not resolve anything is a good lesson for all school students.

Frances Fitzgerald (FG): “I think that it is appropriate (and vitally important) that people from all professions visit schools to address students.

“The United Nations is one of the most important global organisations that unites many countries in addressing the challenging issues of today – such as climate change, global poverty, assisting in the efforts against humanitarian crises to name but a few – not just peacekeeping!”