Unionist politicians in Antrim have called on Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly to cancel a planned book signing near the scene of a Real IRA double murder.
Both the DUP and Ulster Unionists have spoken out after plans were revealed for the event in the town – given its proximity to Massereene barracks where two off-duty soldiers were gunned down in March 2009.
Sappers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar were collecting a pizza delivery at the gates of the base when two gunmen opened fire with automatic assault rifles.
South Antrim MLA Trevor Clarke said an event promoting a book which celebrates IRA activity – the Maze prison escape in 1983 – is not welcome.
“This, of course, is a book which celebrates an event in which a prison officer was shot and others were stabbed or beaten.
“One officer also died as a result of being stabbed with a chisel,” the DUP representative said.
“There is no difference between the violence employed by the Provisional IRA and those dissidents who copy it today.
“Violence and terrorism does not become wrong based on the strategy behind it, or whatever level of support exists for it.
“Gerry Kelly should cancel this event and reflect on exactly what his terrorism has delivered. There is no united Ireland and Mr Kelly’s colleagues administer British rule within the United Kingdom. Perhaps he and his colleagues should spend their time working to help locate the remains of victims abducted and secretly buried by the IRA instead of picking and choosing to glorify certain aspects of their terrorism,” he added.
Ulster Unionist councillor Adrian Cochrane-Watson said he was aware some loyalists in the town are planning a protest.
Calling on Mr Kelly to cancel the event, he said: “I am totally disgusted. We have good community relations in Antrim that we have all been trying to build, so to bring a convicted terrorist to try and glorify an event which ultimately caused the death of a prison officer is just disgusting.”