ETA kidnapper led SF event

Basque separatist leader Arnaldo Otegi,
Basque separatist leader Arnaldo Otegi,

Sinn Fein has been criticised for having a leading Basque terrorist give the keynote address at its ard fheis in Dublin on Saturday.

Ken Funston of Fermanagh victims’ group the South Eastern Fermanagh Foundation noted that Arnaldo Otegi, the political leader of the independence movement of the Basque region of Spain, was granted the platform.

Mr Otegi has been active in the Basque separatist left since the 1970s and has served several jail terms, firstly in 1987 when he was imprisoned for taking part in an ETA kidnapping.

He has also served prison sentences for glorifying terrorism and slandering King Juan Carlos.

In September 2011 he was jailed for trying to revive the proscribed Batasuna.

He completed his sentence last month.

Mr Funston said the Shadow Secretary of State, Vernon Coaker, attended the conference and ex-taoiseach Bertie Ahern afforded Mr Otegi a one-to-one meeting.

“What message does that send to our EU partners in Spain and further afield?” Mr Funston asked.

“It was interesting to note in Otegi’s speech that he equated the terrorism waged in Spain by ETA with Patrick Pearse and the Easter Rising.

“Sinn Fein continues to claim that the events of 1916 are directly related to the atrocities committed by the IRA over the 30 years of the Troubles. The strapline for their conference was ‘Join the Rising’.”

He added that Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson stated in her speech that “the republican movement fought an incredible war and, in so doing, became a beacon light of warm inspiration to liberation struggles across the world”.

Sinn Fein thus continues to motivate other undemocratic groups across the world and are presently advising the Basque separatists, he added.

Otegi’s speech concluded by quoting the words of Bobby Sands: ‘Our revenge will be the laughter of our children.’

Mr Funston added: “Unfortunately there are thousands of families in the UK, the RoI and mainland Europe who were deprived of that laughter due to the systematic slaughter of the IRA and ETA.”

Sinn Fein did not offer any comment in response.