Sinn Fein’s leader in Northern Ireland has been accused of showing her true colours by taking part in a commemoration event tonight to four IRA men in her home town of Clonoe.
Michelle O’Neill has spoken of “healing the hurt of the past”, but her emergence on the political scene has brought back painful memories for the son of a man murdered by an IRA gang which he suspects may have included her cousin.
Alan Dallas, son of Leslie Dallas who was gunned down outside his garage in Coagh along with two other men, said when Michelle O’Neill took over from Martin McGuinness he thought she was going to bring a “new start”.
He said: “I thought she was going to bring a change, a new start, being from a new generation. But then I found out more about her family and realised nothing had changed.”
Although Mrs O’Neill has had no direct IRA involvement, her late father Brendan ‘Basil’ Doris is widely reported as a former IRA prisoner who went on to become a Sinn Fein councillor in Dungannon.
Gerry Adams delivered a graveside eulogy at Mr Doris’s funeral while Mr McGuinness, then a Sinn Fein MP for Mid Ulster, said: “The Doris family are a well-known and respected republican family and have played a significant role in the republican struggle for many years.”
Another public figure in the Doris family is Ms O’Neill’s uncle, Paul Doris, president of Noraid, a republican fundraising group in the USA.
A number of media outlets including the Telegraph, the Guardian, the Daily Mail and the Irish News list Tony Doris, one of three IRA men shot dead in an SAS ambush in 1991, as her cousin.
Mr Dallas said: “Her cousin (Tony Doris) was shot a few hundred yards from where my father was murdered.
“There’s a strong possibility he was one of the ones involved in my father’s murder.”
He added: “I’m not surprised Michelle O’Neill was speaking at this event glorifying the cowardly actions of the IRA.
“She’s showing her true colours.”
Tonight, Mrs O’Neill addressed a vigil in memory of Patrick Vincent, Sean O’Farrell, Peter Clancy and Barry O’Donnell, who were killed by the SAS in February 1992.
They were part of an IRA gang who had carried out an attack on Coalisland RUC station before being ambushed by an SAS unit in a church car park at Clonoe.
UUP Mid Ulster Assembly candidate Sandra Overend said: “It is only to be expected that republicans would wish to remember their dead, but Michelle O’Neill’s presence at such an event is hardly sending a signal to the unionist community that she is some kind of new departure for Sinn Fein.
“Indeed it is just about as far as it is possible to be from ‘showing leadership in terms of reconciliation, genuine meaningful reconciliation and healing the hurt of the past’.”
Mid Ulster DUP candidate Keith Buchanan said Mrs O’Neill’s promise to help “heal the hurt of the past” should be judged against the continued republican attempts to rewrite the past and her commemoration of four IRA terrorists in Clonoe.