Danny Kennedy has hit out at a Sinn Fein assembly member over praise for IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh.
Speaking at a weekend rally in west Belfast to commemorate the ten republicans who died in the Maze prison 35 years ago, Megan Fearon said the men “went to their deaths as a cruel British Government looked on” – and described McCreesh as “one of south Armagh’s proudest sons”.
Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy said Ms Fearon was “trying to justify the unjustifiable”.
He said: “It is hugely disappointing, depressing and quite disgraceful that the Sinn Fein junior minister in the Department of the Executive should be making such comments and promoting such poison to a new generation.
“Clearly Ms Fearon was trying to justify the unjustifiable - Raymond McCreesh was a dedicated and convicted terrorist. He is linked through ballistics to the despicable murder of ten innocent Protestant workmen at Kingsmills in January 1976, so his life cannot and should not be celebrated as a role model to anyone, not least to young people.”
Commenting on her remarks about the “cruel” British Government, Mr Kennedy added: “This conveniently ignores the crucial fact that the Hunger strikers chose to starve themselves to death and end their lives.
“This choice was denied to the victims of the IRA and INLA, who had their lives ended for them, all too often in the most cowardly and cruel of circumstances.
“She may choose to venerate the memory of ten convicted terrorists. She would do better to pause and spare a thought for the ten innocent men murdered by the IRA at Kingsmills.”
Mr Kennedy added: “She also says – ‘the Hunger Strike was about much more than ten brave men. It was the hundreds of men and women in Long Kesh and Armagh who endured years of protest, refusing to be criminalised. The victory of the Hunger Strikers was their victory.’
“To that I say, what victory? Her words are a vain and futile attempt to deny the reality that the IRA campaign of violence ended in failure. There is no greater evidence of that failure than the fact that she herself now sits in Stormont administering British rule. Does she really believe that that is what the hunger strikers died for?”