Sinn Féin march ‘an insult to IRA victims’

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Frank McGrath
Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Frank McGrath

Relatives of IRA victims have accused Sinn Féin of “insulting” their loved ones’ memories by planning a major commemoration of hunger strikers in Co Down.

The march, which will be attended by Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald, is scheduled for Castlewellan on Sunday, August 5.

It will mark the deaths of 10 republican hunger strikers, including Bobby Sands and Raymond McCreesh, in 1981.

Tens of thousands of republicans attend the event, which changes location annually.

This year’s march in south Down has been condemned by relatives of local victims, who say it is compounding their grief. Sinn Féin defended the parade, citing its “right” to commemorate the hunger strikers who it said were “inspirational” to those striving for “freedom” across the world.

But Sandra Harrison, chair of local victims group Mourne Action for Survivors of Terrorism, criticised the event.

She said it had brought back the trauma of losing her brother Alan (23), who was killed in Kilkeel 30 years ago. “It is an insult to my brother’s memory. It’s distasteful,” she said. “It’s very saddening to see that they’re glorifying hunger strikers and bringing it back to the fore again. It’s gut-wrenching.”

Her comments were echoed by Sammy Heenan, whose father William was murdered outside his home 8km from Castlewellan in 1985. “It’s an insult to my father’s memory and those who lost their lives in south Down for Castlewellan to be chosen for this,” he said.

“This area bore the brunt of a sustained IRA campaign for 30 years. It confronts the Sinn Féin mantra of truth, integrity and respect, something they demand themselves but cannot afford to the victims of the IRA in this area.

“This event should not be taking place as it reinforces the trauma of the victims.”

Irish Independent

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