A Sinn Fein MEP has hit back at those who criticised a Londonderry school for naming his party colleague Martina Anderson ‘past pupil of the day’.
Matt Carthy said St Cecilia’s has honoured a worthy former pupil, and said the “harassment” that followed the announcement was “an overt attempt at bullying and intimidating civic society away from engaging with Sinn Féin representatives”.
Ms Anderson spent 13 years in prison for conspiracy to cause explosions before being released under the terms of the Belfast Agreement.
She became a MEP in 2012 after a spell as a junior minister in the office of the first and deputy first minister at Stormont.
A number of unionists raised concerns and questioned why the school was lauding a convicted terrorist, who has never renounced violence, as a role model for young girls. However, Mr Carthy said: “It’s disgraceful that a school is targeted for harassment and intimidation simply because they decide to recognise the achievements of a past-pupil.
“Martina’s past is well known. Equally she has accepted her responsibility to play a part in promoting peace and reconciliation and to reach out to victims of the conflict from every community.”
Gary Middleton, a DUP MLA for Foyle, said that unless Ms Anderson is teaching young people “about the futility of terrorism” then she shouldn’t be a role model.
“Sinn Fein has repeatedly offended victims by their continued glorification of terrorism. Whether it’s selling pro-IRA T-shirts, applause for the IRA at the SF conference or speeches at IRA commemorations, victims sense no realisation amongst Sinn Fein of the grotesque atrocities the IRA perpetrated against innocent people.”
Mr Middleton added: “Unless she is teaching young people about the futility of terrorism then it is perfectly understandable why there has been outrage. It is a matter for the school how they handle their social media but people are entitled to criticise their decisions too.”
South Armagh victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer also Sinn Fein needed to send a “clear message that violence was wrong”.
He added: “The republican movement has yet to apologise or accept that there was no justification or excuse for the use of violence to further their political aims. It is entirely legitimate to seek to change the political position of Northern Ireland, however, all morality was lost when they adopted the Armalite and ballot box approach.”