Sinn Fein leader Michelle O’Neill is continuing to idolise terrorists by taking part in an event commemorating eight IRA men killed by the SAS at Loughgall, a victims’ campaigner has said.
Kenny Donaldson, a spokesman for Innocent Victims United, accused Mrs O’Neill of having “a very skewed understanding” of the reconciliation process.
Meanwhile, leading reconciliation activist Trevor Ringland has urged Mrs O’Neill to follow the example set by DUP leader Arlene Foster, who in recent days has held a series of meetings with Irish language groups in Northern Ireland.
Mrs O’Neill’s planned participation at the event this weekend – which Sinn Fein has dubbed ‘Loughgall Martyrs 30th anniversary’ – comes after she attended a ceremony in February marking the deaths of four IRA men shot dead by the SAS in Clonoe, Co Tyrone in 1992.
Mr Donaldson told the News Letter: “The ‘Loughgall Eight’ were terrorists and in a number of cases, serial killers. The East Tyrone-Monaghan members of the Provisional IRA terrorised the community and left a trail of death and destruction.
“Michelle O’Neill talks about reconciliation like those before her in Sinn Fein/IRA but it’s a very skewed understanding that she has.
“She has continued to engage in the terrorism idolatry of her predecessor Martin McGuinness; there is no fresh departure.
“What does she have to say to the innocents whose lives were stolen by the eight terrorists she will be lauding as freedom fighters?
“Mrs O’Neill should instead be committing her political party to a reconciliation process which is built upon the necessity for remorse, repentance and restitution of past wrongs.”
Meanwhile, Mr Ringland – a solicitor and former Ireland rugby international – has hit out at Sinn Fein for maintaining that its campaign of violence during the Troubles was justified.
He said: “Nothing was achieved by the use of violence in Northern Ireland that could not have been achieved by peaceful means. That goes for not just the IRA, but also loyalist paramilitaries and members of the security forces who acted outside the law.
“What Arlene Foster is doing by reaching out to Irish language groups is the right thing to do, both morally and strategically. Michelle O’Neill should be making gestures of this kind as well.”
UUP MP Tom Elliott has accused Mrs O’Neill of “a lack of respect” by her planned attendance at Sunday’s event.
He added: “A feature of the recent talks processes has been repeated demands from Sinn Fein for respect. As with the truth, Sinn Fein is demanding something from others that it is incapable of providing itself.”