A roadside memorial for two of the IRA men killed by the SAS at Loughgall – that vanished without trace in Co Monaghan – must not be rebuilt, Doug Beattie has said.
The Ulster Unionist MLA said the substantial stone monument in honour of heavily armed killers was “perverse,” and that authorities in the Republic must prevent it being reinstated.
James Lynagh and Padraig McKearney, along with six other IRA gunmen and one innocent passer-by, were shot dead by troops lying in wait as they launched a gun and bomb attack on the small police station in the Co Armagh village on May 8, 1987.
The monument was erected in 2007 on the Co Monaghan side of the Irish border around five miles from Clogher in south Tyrone.
It is believed a mechanical digger was used to remove the memorial in its entirety, including brickwork, railings and pathway, from the site.
The Loughgall Truth and Justice Campaign (LTJC) described its destruction as a “horrendous act of disrespect” to both the men and their families.
Two online images of the scene show the memorial as it was, and then the barren site as it looks now.
Mr Beattie said: “If it was placed illegally then the Irish government should have taken action, if the intent is to establish it illegally then again I say the Irish government should take action.
“We have exactly the same problem here in NI where monuments to terrorists are being built illegally and this should not be allowed to happen.
“I take no pleasure in anyone being killed but these two men were intent on murder and destruction of property and met their deaths through the legitimate actions of state forces.”
He added: “They are linked to multiple killings of men, women and children and why anyone wants to glorify this with a memorial to them is in my mind perverse.”
The removal of the memorial has baffled republicans, leading to hundreds of social media posts about who might have been responsible.
Monaghan County Council revealed it had been erected without planning permission, but said the council had no involvement in pulling it down.
Mr Beattie went on to say: “I understand and respect that everyone should have the right to remember their dead but it should be done in a manner were it does not cause offense to others especially victims and the families of victims. Therefore I do not believe this memorial should be reinstated and the Irish government should take steps preventing it being reinstated.”
At the time of the Loughgall attack, Lynagh and McKearney were living in the border counties of the Republic while on the run from authorities in Northern Ireland.