Sinn Fein’s ‘respect’ agenda has been queried after complaints about a sign above its Castlewellan advice centre commemorating two men who died while on IRA missions in the area.
One of those raising concerns was Sammy Heenan, whose father was shot dead by the IRA five miles away on their family farm in 1985. His mother having recently died, the murder left him an orphan, aged only 12 years of age.
Mr Heenan slammed the sign above Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard’s Castlewellan office, which reads: ‘McNulty-Magorrian Advice Centre’.
Peter McNulty was killed by his own bomb as he tried to blow up Castlewellan RUC station in 1972 and Paul Magorrian was shot by the security forces whilst he was on ‘active service’ in 1974.
While unionists said they were deeply hurt by the new sign, Sinn Fein insisted that it had been in place for 25 years – but has just been updated.
Mr Heenan told the News Letter: “Sinn Fein talk a lot now about respect, integrity and equality in the context of exposing issues around the DUP and the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme. But in Castlewellan on a recent Friday afternoon amid busy shoppers in broad daylight, Chris Hazzard and Mary Lou McDonald stood and eulogised Peter McNulty, who died while trying to bomb Castlewellan RUC station.
“So how did that extend respect, integrity and equality to the minority unionist community in the area? And how does naming this advice centre after two IRA men extend respect to unionists in the area?
“After all the bloodshed and intimidation in this area the unionist community is only a shadow of its former self.”
Since Mr Hazzard was elected MP, he said, the Sinn Fein representative appeared in one edition of the local paper supporting victims of loyalist murders at Loughinisland and in the same edition on a different page eulogising IRA members in Castlewellan.
“But this is total hypocrisy. You cannot both support innocent victims of terrorism at Loughinisland and then celebrate terrorism in Castlewellan at the same time.”
He added: “If the DUP had named an office after Billy Wright there would rightly have been an outcry, but society is being brainwashed to accept it as normal in relation to Sinn Fein and the IRA.”
South Down DUP MLA Jim Wells said: “Sinn Fein speak of ‘reaching out’ to their unionist neighbours whilst erecting a sign which will cause enormous offence to the families of the 70 innocent victims of terrorism in south Down.
“What makes this development even more appalling is that when he was elected as the MP for South Down, Hazzard promised that he would work for all the people of the constituency.”
Innocent Victims United spokesman Kenny Donaldson said several members of his group from the area had been deeply hurt by the news.
“Be clear, the two individuals whom this Sinn Fein constituency office has been named after were terrorists – they were not freedom fighters and nor were they civil rights activists,” he said.
“Their role and purpose was to wage terror against those who did not subscribe to their narrow ethnic and sectarian ideology.”
A Sinn Fein spokesperson said: “Under the Good Friday Agreement, everyone, including Irish republicans, have the right to remember their dead with dignity and respect.”