Funders won’t withdraw money over IRA tweet

DUP MP Emma Pengelly has called for public funding for 'Relatives For Justice' to be stopped after it tweeted an image of a plaque in memory of three IRA men who were killed in 1988 while trying to killed a UDR soldier.
DUP MP Emma Pengelly has called for public funding for 'Relatives For Justice' to be stopped after it tweeted an image of a plaque in memory of three IRA men who were killed in 1988 while trying to killed a UDR soldier.

An organisation that funds a victims’ group which tweeted a photograph of an IRA memorial plaque has rejected DUP calls for its finances to be frozen.

The plaque was in commemoration of the actions of three IRA men, brothers Gerard and Martin Harte and Brian Mullin, who were killed by the SAS as they attempted to ambush an off-duty UDR soldier at Cloughfin, Co Tyrone in August 1988.

Relatives for Justice had tweeted: “Privileged to be at 29th anniversary mass of Gerard and Martin Harte and Brian Mullin tonight”.

Attached to the tweet was photo of a plaque which noted the three were “IRA volunteers” who were “killed in action”.

South Belfast DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly said she was “shocked and dismayed” at the tweet, adding: “I have asked for the immediate suspension of funding to this organisation and to carry out an urgent and full investigation.”

She added: “The IRA remains a proscribed organisation. The IRA brought heartache and pain to thousands of innocent people. The glorification of terrorism remains illegal.”

The Victims and Survivors Service (VSS), which provides core funding to Relatives for Justice, said in a statement that the legal definition of victim hood under which it operates does not exclude terrorists.

“VSS was established in 2012 to provide support and services to victims and survivors,” said a spokeswoman.

“We provide this support through a wide range of local community based services and interventions for individuals who have been bereaved, are suffering from an ongoing injury, or are currently caring for an injured person as a result of the Northern Ireland conflict/troubles. The definition of a victim is outlined in the NI Order 2006.

“Since 2012, the VSS has provided funding to Relatives for Justice. We are satisfied that this organisation is providing a range of professional health and wellbeing and advocacy support services to victims and survivors as defined under the NI Order 2006.”

Sinn Féin victims spokeswoman Linda Dillon MLA said Mrs Little-Pengelly was guilty of “rank hypocrisy”.

She added: “Relatives for Justice (RFJ) supports victims and survivors where requested and provide a valuable service to families seeking truth and justice for loved ones killed in the conflict. They do so in a professional, objective and non-political way.”

The DUP was endorsed during the Westminster election by a group which represents loyalist paramilitaries only days after a UDA murder in Bangor, she added.

Ms Little-Pengelly said yesterday that she has requested and secured an urgent meeting with the Victims and Survivors Service (VVS) over its support for Relatives for Justice.

“Relatives for Justice are a victims’ organisation yet attended the commemoration for two individuals who were engaged in attempting to create victims through their terrorist actions,” she said.

“No one would find it acceptable for an organisation representing the victims of domestic violence to commemorate someone involved in such a crime.”