Organisers of a paramilitary funeral and the PSNI have come under fire for a second day – from a terror victim and the chair of the Stormont education committee.
Hundreds turned out for the funeral on Wednesday of prominent republican Declan McGlinchey – son of murdered INLA leader Dominic McGlinchey – in St Mary’s Church in the Co Londonderry village of Bellaghy.
It featured extensive paramilitary-style uniforms and trappings on Mr McGlinchey’s coffin.
Ann Travers, whose sister Mary was gunned down by the IRA in 1984, slammed the organisers for exposing schoolgirls and GAA players to the paramilitary trappings.
“It just should not be happening and exposing a whole new generation to any of that,” she said.
Chair of the Stormont education committee, DUP MLA Peter Weir, added: “Any reasonable person will be alarmed and horrified at schoolchildren being exposed to men or women in terrorist regalia.
“It is time that all paramilitaries left the stage. No one wants to see images like this.”
His colleagues have asked police to investigate and he hopes that prosecutions will follow, he added. “Terrorists are not heroes they are criminals.”
The day of the funeral also saw a tribute to Mr McGlinchey being paid by Continuity IRA prisoners in Maghaberry.
The funeral procession began from Mr McGlinchey’s home on Wednesday morning with a balaclava-clad guard of honour and later involved dozens of others in paramilitary-style uniforms with black berets.
A republican flag and black leather gloves were carried on the coffin but were removed in the church.
Images were published of masked men firing a volley of shots in his honour in south Londonderry the night before the funeral.
A line of young girls in uniforms from St Mary’s College were pictured outside the chapel as the coffin entered.
Youths wearing Wolfe Tones GAA tops walked in procession and provided a guard of honour.
The school said it was its practice to send pupils and other representatives to the funeral of a parent who has children attending the school.
Ulster GAA said Mr McGlinchey was a member of Bellaghy Wolfe Tones GAA and therefore the presence of club members at his funeral was “in the context of his active membership”.
Mr McGlinchey, 39, died suddenly of a suspected heart attack and is survived by his wife Brenda, seven children and brother Dominic.
Yesterday his uncle, Sinn Fein councillor Sean McGlinchey, hit back at criticism of his funeral by unionists.
“The guard of honour with people wearing balaclavas was nowhere near the church, nowhere near the young Wolfe Tone GAA players or the school pupils, and I want to make that clear,” he told the Derry Journal.
“For unionists, this is just them playing politics. The man is dead and he can’t even rest in peace, just like his mother and father. My nephew worked tirelessly with the young people involved in the GAA, and with people in the Outreach Centre in Bellaghy. He was committed to helping people and he found peace with himself doing that.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said they had “no remit” over the attendance of pupils at a funeral.
DUP Policing Board member Jonathan Craig said republican paramilitary funeral displays have been repeatedly reported to police recently. He said there was a “disparity with how such events have been policed compared to other events when high-profile evidence-gathering operations have been put in place to prosecute people for paying musical instruments.”
The PSNI said they had not received any complaints nor are aware of incidents during the funeral “but that if any criminal offences are detected, these will be pursued”.