Unionists criticise Castlewellan event

Unionists criticise Castlewellan event

25 July 2018

UNIONISTS have criticised a Hunger Strike commemoration event which is being held in Castlewellan next weekend.

Thousands of people are expected to attend the event which organisers say will include historical talks, poetry, children’s fun days and documentaries. The guest speaker will be Sinn Fein party president Mary Lou McDonald.

Organisers say the weekend event will highlight the historical journey of Irish Republicanism throughout the centuries and is intended to “honour and pay respect” to 10 men who died on hunger strike in 1981 and those from the Long Kesh H-Blocks and women in Armagh jail who took part in prison protests and the hunger strikes.

But TUV leader Jim Allister and Slieve Croob Ulster Unionist representative Alan Lewis have condemned the event.

Mr Allister said the commemoration “starkly illustrates the fact Republicans, far from changing and repudiating their bloody past, are intent on celebrating and lionising terrorists.”

He continued: “They want to indoctrinate the upcoming generation and even sickeningly seek to draw parallels between those who died for 

freedom in the First World War and IRA terrorists.

“South Down is an area which suffered grievously at the hands of the Provisional movement with over 70 people having their lives cut short by IRA terrorists. Yet Sinn Fein are intent on subjecting them to this terror fest.”

Mr Lewis called on the organisers to “reflect upon the feelings of innocent victims.” He said over half of troubles-related killings within South Down were attributed to the IRA and argued commemorations such as the one planned for next weekend “belong in the past.” 

The UUP representative continued: “Surely republicans are aware that many local victims will be retraumatised by such an event. It seems equality and respect are political buzzwords adapted as part of the trojan horse charm offensive, but the reality is very different. 

“What we are seeing in Castlewellan is the true face of republicanism, the unpolished reality and glorification of unrepentant terrorism. It’s not surprising Sinn Fein president Mary Lou MacDonald will give the key note address. Her time would be better spent apologising to the innocent victims of Provo terrorism.”

He added: “ Bobby Sands the bomber, Raymond McCreesh the gunman, Francis Hughes the murderer, the list goes on. The activities of all ten men are far from heroic, certainly nothing that should be celebrated in a busy town on a Sunday afternoon.”

 A Sinn Féin spokesperson said the party would not take lectures from the UUP, accusing it of “running a one party, apartheid state for over 50 years.”

The spokesman added: “As Alan Lewis will know, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, which his party supported, everyone has a right to remember their dead with dignity and respect.

“The names of the hunger strikers are internationally recognised as an inspiration to all people struggling for freedom, rights, and human dignity.”