Calls for a “mass mobilisation” of republicans in a Co Fermanagh village next week only serves to escalate tensions, Tom Elliott has said.
The Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA was responding to comments made by Sinn Fein’s Pat Sheehan in a video posted online ahead of a 1981 hunger strike commemoration in Derrylin.
The march is due to take place on Sunday.
Mr Elliott said it was time for Sinn Fein to show compassion to IRA victims rather than “looking over their shoulders” at dissident republicans.
The former Ulster Unionist leader said: “A call by Pat Sheehan on Sinn Fein’s website for a ‘mass mobilisation’ for a hunger strike commemoration in Derrylin demonstrates a total lack of leadership by Sinn Fein.
“At a time when unionists are trying to calm tensions around parading, Sinn Fein seems intent on escalating them by calling people out on to the streets. This demonstrates the lack of respect from Sinn Fein for innocent victims.
“They are totally lacking in any compassion for the families of those who were murdered by the IRA, especially the family of Jimmy Graham who was shot dead at the primary school in the village. Such vulgar triumphalism is like walking over the graves of the dead.”
In the online video Mr Sheehan, who spent 55 days on hunger strike, said: “This year’s rally is particularly special given the role that the people of Fermanagh/South Tyrone played in the iconic election of Bobby Sands as MP for the area.”
Mr Elliott said the “dignified approach” of victims of IRA terrorism in the Derrylin area was in contrast to that of the march organisers.
“They do not want a street protest against the parade and have appealed for their wishes to be respected. Instead the families will remain dignified in remembering and honouring their loved ones this Sunday and every other day of the year. That’s leadership,” Mr Elliott added.
Victims upset over rally plans
A group representing terror victims in Fermanagh has met with the Parades Commission to voice concerns about the hunger strike rally planned for Derrylin.
Lisnaskea-based South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) provides services and support to innocent victims of terrorism across Fermanagh and South Tyrone.
SEFF spokesman Kenny Donaldson, above, said many families were upset over the march: “Representations have been made to the Parades Commission concerning victims and survivors’ anxieties about the event and the matter has also been raised with the UK and Republic of Ireland governments.
“We have also spoken to the PSNI and have appealed for a visible presence on the day. The legal police system must hold court on Sunday in Derrylin and no other,” he added.