Farry says there should be no glamorising of the past

Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry has said there should be no glamorising the past in ways which add hurt to victims, after Sinn Fein Northern leader Michelle O’Neill spoke at a memorial for eight IRA men shot dead by the SAS.

Ms O’Neill was at the event in Cappagh, Co Tyrone. It marked the deaths of eight members of the IRA’s East Tyrone unit at Loughgall in May 1987 as they approached the local RUC station with a bomb.

Dr Farry said there was a risk of remembrance glorifying actions instead of merely mourning the loss of life.

“While we respect families, friends and communities will want to remember loved ones, regardless of the circumstances in which it happened, there is a risk of remembrance also glorifying their actions.

“Each death during the Troubles is regretted and every loss of life is a source of immense pain. However, when the remembrance of people crosses the line to legitimisation of their individual or collective actions then a worrying message is sent out in terms of the reinforcement of divisions and ambiguity of the rule of law.

“As a possible First Minister or deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill should bear in mind under the Good Friday Agreement, she is not there to be solely the representative of republican interests any more than Arlene Foster would be the representative of unionist interests. Anyone holding senior office has a duty to represent the entire community.

“There was never any justification for any activities from paramilitary or terrorist organisations. Attempts to provide a rationale today, around for example the reality of discrimination, and to rewrite history should be challenged and rejected. There was never any inevitability about violence, choices were always made.

“Furthermore, it is wrong to equate the actions of paramilitaries with those of the security forces. The police and army had a mandate to protect lives. Of course, there were also serious issues, failings and illegal behaviour, and all of these should be subject to investigation.

“Paramilitarism is not something consigned to our dark past. It remains a challenge to deter young people from being easily swayed.”

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