Gerry Kelly’s IRA prison break tweet sparks outrage

Gerry Kelly
Gerry Kelly
Share this article

A tweet posted by Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly celebrating the anniversary of the 1983 IRA escape from the Maze prison has provoked outrage from some quarters.

The Stormont Assembly member was among the 38 prisoners to break free from the Maze in the biggest mass jail break in the UK’s history and shot a prison guard above the eye in the breakout.

Prison officer James Ferris was among those injured. He later died of a heart attack and while a number of men were charged with is murder none were convicted as it could not be proved the stabbing had been the main cause of death.

On Wednesday Mr Kelly tweeted: “La Breithe shoa daoibh. Happy 30th anniversary of the Great Escape 1983 from Long Kesh H Blocks to all those involved.”

The post had been retweeted 81 times and favourited 34 times five hours after being posted.

Some of those responding to the tweet said it was deliberately provocative.

Izzy Giles of the PUP said: “Gerry Kelly’s comment this morning celebrating the escape from Long Kesh is vile. Disgusting attitude to have in 2013 and as an elected MLA.”

David James said Mr Kelly was celebrating an event shortly after which a prison officer had died and the message was not “Christian”.

Another Twitter user said it was “ an outrageous and disgusting sentiment”.

Francis Walshingham tweeted: “How can ANY self respecting Unionist take Gerry Kelly seriously? The man goes out of his way to antagonise.”

On Tuesday it was announced comments Mr Kelly made during a speech earlier this year commemorating two IRA bombers are to be investigated by an ethics commissioner from Scotland to judge whether they breached the MLA code of conduct at Stormont.

In his speech Mr Kelly said two men were “ordinary young men in the extraordinary circumstances of the early 1970s who rose to the challenge of the time.”

He continued: “They had a vision of equality and freedom and they knew the risks they were taking to achieve it but they could not stand idly by or leave it to others.”