Tim Attwood: Sinn Fein’s attack on Paddy Devlin was shameful

The late Paddy Devlin. Tim Attwood describes him as: "A punchy character, a republican, socialist, trade unionist and peace train activist."  Picture of Pacemaker
The late Paddy Devlin. Tim Attwood describes him as: "A punchy character, a republican, socialist, trade unionist and peace train activist." Picture of Pacemaker

There has been an important debate in Belfast City Council about how we make Belfast City Hall and our grounds more representative of all traditions, new and old.

It is vitally important that the grounds of Belfast City Council acknowledge, in a balanced and inclusive way, the role of citizens of Belfast who have positively contributed to the social, political and civic life of Belfast through memorials in the front of City Hall.

Letter to the editor

Letter to the editor

A number of positive suggestions were made, by all parties, which would see commemorative statues, bench statues and windows installed for Paddy Devlin, Winifred Carney, Robert McAdam Mary Ann McCracken, Grace Bannister, the role of minority ethnic communities and the role of the health service.

This initiative would recognise the central contribution to Belfast of women, socialists, nationalists, republicans, trade unionists, civil rights, ethnic minorities and the Belfast role in the anti-slavery movement.

One of the people proposed by a cross community group of people, including Rev Chris Hudson, Rev John McDowell, Bishop of Clogher, Alban Maginness and Seamus Lynch, was the late Paddy Devlin.

They recognised him as a punchy character, a republican, socialist, trade unionist and peace train activist who spent his life campaigning for civil rights, fairness and equality for all regardless of religious affiliation or political belief.

I do not expect Sinn Fein to agree with the politics of Paddy Devlin but I had hoped they would show respect to his family and those who proposed him.

Regrettably, at the February Belfast City Council meeting, Sinn Fein decided to disrespect the life and memory of Paddy Devlin, who passed away in 1999. Sinn Fein challenged his republican credentials and attacked his record in the 1980s when he stood up against violence.

As historian Bob Purdie wrote Paddy Devlin did not publicly criticise the hunger strikes, “but he did not support them, either, and that wasn’t good enough for the Provos”. For this he was threatened and intimidated.

Sinn Fein regularly talk a lot about the respect agenda.

In this case, Sinn Fein chose to publicly attack Paddy Devlin in council.

It was shameful and deeply offensive to his family and friends who loved him.

I want to build a Belfast, which is a City for All.

Sinn Fein appear to want their way or no way.

It is the same old and out of date strategy of ourselves alone.

Tim Attwood, SDLP councillor. Belfast BT11