A DUP MP has called for the suspension of public funding to a Troubles victims’ group after it tweeted in support of three IRA men who were killed as they attempted to ambush a UDR soldier.
Brothers Gerard and Martin Harte died along with Brian Mullin when they attempted to kill the off-duty UDR soldier at Cloughfin, Co Tyrone while he was delivering coal on August 30, 1988. However, the SAS were lying in wait.
The UDR man was replaced with another soldier and was pretending to fix a tyre when the IRA men, armed with two AK-47s and a revolver, drove up to kill him.
However, over a dozen SAS soldiers were hiding in a nearby ditch and had a heavy machine gun in an adjacent derelict building. The lorry was hit five times and 236 shots in total were fired.
The shootings came 10 days after eight soldiers were killed in the IRA Ballygawley bus bombing.
South Belfast DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly said she was “shocked and dismayed” at the recent activities of the publicly funded, ‘Relatives for Justice’ group in relation to the case.
“I have asked for the immediate suspension of funding to this organisation and to carry out an urgent and full investigation,” she said.
“On 30th of August 2017, the official social media account for the group stated it was ‘privileged’ to be attending an anniversary mass for the three IRA men.”
This message was accompanied by a photograph of a plaque which stated that the men were “IRA Volunteers” that were “killed in action”.
Mrs Little-Pengelly added: “It should be highlighted that this ‘action’ included lying in wait to ambush a part-time UDR soldier during his work as a coal man. This group of terrorists gained notoriety for their barbarism and relentless attempt to ethnically cleanse Protestants in the west of our Province.”
The group is almost entirely funded by The Executive Office through the Victims and Survivors Service (VSS) to “provide professional, objective and non-political services” she added.
In response, Relatives for Justice said it is “always privileged to attend remembrance activities organised by families in respect of their loved ones”.
It added: “RFJ provides a fully inclusive and professional non-judgmental range of support services to people affected by the conflict whatever the circumstances in which their loved ones were killed.”
VSS had not offered comment at the time of going to press.