Republicans are acting with “appallingly bad taste” by organising a party to welcome home John Downey after his murder trial was halted, Gregory Campbell has said.
Downey had been charged with killing four soldiers in the 1982 Hyde Park bombing, but an Old Bailey judge dismissed the case when it emerged the convicted IRA member had a letter granting him immunity from prosecution.
He was due to arrive back in Co Donegal last night and it has emerged that a celebration is being held in his honour.
The social event – at The Lagoon bar/restaurant in Termon this Saturday – follows a well-attended fundraiser at the same venue last June while Downey was on remand.
Victims groups have been outraged at news that 187 on the run republican terror suspects were issued with an effective amnesty by the British Government.
The East Londonderry MP said: “If the event goes ahead as planned it will be seen as being in appallingly bad taste, particularly by the families of the [Hyde Park] soldiers, because they are sitting at home, grieving and retraumatised and in anguish as a result of a failure by the judicial system to prosecute whoever might be believed to be behind the murders of their loved ones – while the man who is under suspicion, and who should be in a court to answer the charge, to prove whether he is innocent or guilty, is now going to be welcomed home by Sinn Fein.”
Mr Campbell added: “Not only the organisers, but Sinn Fein as a political movement, ought to be totally and utterly ashamed of themselves for organising such an event.”
TUV leader Jim Allister said: “It is bad enough that the innocent victims of the Hyde Park bombing were betrayed by their Government to prop up the grubby ‘peace process’ in Northern Ireland but now Sinn Fein/IRA are rubbing their noses in it by organising a party to celebrate Downey’s return from London.
“This ghoulish celebration will sicken people across Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
“It is a telling reminder of the nature of Sinn Fein and their total insensitivity to victims and their unfitness for government.”
Mr Allister added: “The revelations over the last few days remind us all of the poisonous foundation on which Stormont is based.”
Downey, who lives in Creeslough, had been held on remand in England for the last nine months.
Pearce Doherty of Sinn Fein said the free entry event was being held to thank the “hundreds of people from across the county and further afield” who helped raise funds for Downey’s defence and support last summer.
The proprietor of The Lagoon was contacted by the News Letter but declined to comment.