The comments of a senior Sinn Fein member at an IRA commemoration in Northern Ireland this summer encouraged dissident republicans to violence, it has been claimed.
North Belfast Stormont assemblyman Gerry Kelly denied glorifying terrorism after addressing a republican demonstration marking the deaths of two bombers killed by their own device in Castlederg, West Tyrone.
Democratic Unionist MLA Tom Buchanan alleged his remarks “rang in the ears” of dissidents.
“Mr Kelly’s comments tell those republicans if you believe you have a vision of equality and freedom and if you know the risks you are taking you cannot stand idly by or leave it to others,” he told the Stormont assembly.
“There are dissident republicans today who believe that they cannot leave it to the others of Sinn Fein to deliver their goals and who are prepared to use the very same tactics of Harvey and McGlynn (Provisional IRA bombers killed near Castlederg) in an attempt to achieve that aim.
“That is something that was being promoted by Mr Kelly while he was in Castlederg, stirring up young nationalists to get them to do exactly this very thing, promoting this within Castlederg. That is why the remarks of Mr Kelly are so dangerous and why this assembly must take a united stand against them.”
In August 1973 Gerard McGlynn, 18, and Seamus Harvey, 22, died when their bomb exploded prematurely near the town.
On the anniversary of their deaths last month Mr Kelly said: “They were ordinary young men in the extraordinary circumstances of the early 1970s who rose to the challenge of the time. 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.
“It is a harsh reality of resistance that we lose some of our best activists during armed conflict and Seamus and Gerard along with their other comrades whom we remember here today, paid with their lives.”
The Tyrone Volunteers Day Parade commemorated republicans who died during the Troubles, including the two IRA men.
Several hundred bandsmen and republican supporters took part in the march. Hundreds of protesters, including some family members of IRA murder victims, staged a counter-demonstration.
Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers had urged organisers to call off the march, saying it was “causing great hurt” to victims of terrorism.
Mr Kelly has argued that he was honouring comrades who gave their lives in the struggle for Irish freedom. He said the centre of Castlederg was supposed to be a “shared space” and almost 20 unionist marches had taken place in the town so far this year.
The senior republican also said there must not be “a hierarchy of victims which would discriminate against republicans and nationalists not just in life, but in death also”.
Ms Villiers told the Northern Ireland Grand Committee of MPs, sitting at Stormont, on Monday that she was greatly concerned by the Castlederg parade.
“A key way forward for Northern Ireland is for people to take into account the views of other parts of the community and trying to ensure these decisions are taken in an atmosphere of respect and understanding,” she said.
“I hope we will receive a different outcome next year.”