Chris Donnelly: remove memorial to Narrow Water soldiers

A former Sinn Fein election candidate has come in for a barrage of criticism after suggesting that the memorial to 18 soldiers killed by the IRA near Warrenpoint be removed in order to halt sectarian attacks on it.

Media commentator and Belfast teacher Chris Donnelly was speaking after the third attack in three weeks on the Narrow Water bombing memorial on Saturday.

Chris Donnelly's tweet came in for a barrage of criticism

Chris Donnelly's tweet came in for a barrage of criticism

An IRA bomb attack killed 18 soldiers at the site in 1979.

Wreaths were damaged and thrown on to the road in this latest incident, which police are again treating as a hate crime.

Last month Cliftonville FC fans were linked to a vicious attack on the wreaths.

On Saturday Mr Donnelly suggested a solution. “It might be a sad indictment of our society, but I don’t think it is wise for some to persist with this ad hoc memorial,” he said on Twitter. “A reciprocal republican memorial from the Troubles period would almost certainly face a similar fate in a unionist area.”

A recent scene at the memorial to 18 British soldiers killed by the IRA at Narrow Water castle

A recent scene at the memorial to 18 British soldiers killed by the IRA at Narrow Water castle

However, he faced a barrage of criticism.

“For a school teacher to refer to a memorial of human beings butchered as, an ad hoc memorial, is an absolute disgrace!” said one.

Another pointed out that it was on the scene of the explosions. “I’m not one for memorials myself and I’m against over the top displays,” he said. “But I don’t think there’s anything inappropriate about that one.

“The Narrow Water memorial isn’t in a residential area. It’s at the side of an A road. It isn’t located within a community of any sort. That makes all the difference.”

Several pointed out that a memorial to Three Scottish Soldiers shot by the IRA in north Belfast in 1971 is permanent and in a neutral area and yet is constantly being vandalised.

PSNI Inspector Ryan Moore said that all three attacks are being treated as hate crimes, including one last week, on October 4, where crosses were broken and wreaths scattered.

“We would urge anyone who witnessed what happened last night – or either of the previous incidents – to get in touch with police,” he said.

Alliance councillor Andrew McMurray described all three attacks as “despicable”.