A former IRA bomber and an MP have challenged US civil rights campaigner Rev Jesse Jackson for spending so much time with republicans in Londonderry yesterday while ignoring their victims.
During his visit Rev Jackson accompanied Sinn Fein to lay a wreath at the grave of Martin McGuinness, visited the scene of Bloody Sunday and opened the Free Derry Museum.
Sinn Fein’s Karen Mullan said: “It was a great honour to welcome the Rev Jesse Jackson to Derry today, as he laid a wreath at the grave of Martin McGuinness”. She added that Rev Jackson paid a warm tribute to Mr McGuinness, comparing him to Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.
Mr McGuinness died in March at the age of 66, having been an IRA commander but eventually turning his back on violence to become deputy first minister.
By contrast Rev Jackson fought racism with Martin Luther King in the 1960s exclusively using Gandhi’s doctrine of non-violence.
Former Londonderry IRA bomber Shane O’Doherty, who now speaks on faith, repentance and non-violence, challenged Rev Jackson’s actions.
He said: “Rev Jackson laid a wreath really for ‘the Death of Truth’; a lot of truths were buried with Martin never to see the light of day until ‘The Last Day’ when all will be revealed.
“Sinn Fein/IRA will be no partners in any Truth and Reconciliation Commission since they are the very antithesis of truth.”
East Londonderry DUP MP Gregory Campbell said Rev Jackson had failed to acknowledge the exodus of 15,000 Protestants from the west bank of the Foyle due to sectarian violence.
“Jesse Jackson isn’t the first and undoubtedly won’t be the last American to fail to see both sides of a divided society while proclaiming their belief in ‘Equal Rights’,” he said.
“Mr Jackson visited the grave of Martin McGuinness, but did he visit any other graves while he was here, for example any of those whose lives were taken before Martin McGuinness decided the violent path wasn’t working for him?
“He was photographed holding partisan publications claiming collusion between loyalists and the security forces – but did he seek to hear the more accurate side of that story from those who tried to maintain peace while society teetered on the brink?”
Waterside DUP Alderman Drew Thompson also protested at Rev Jackson’s actions.
“Martin McGuinness was the self confessed second in command of the IRA in this city during some of the most bloodthirsty attacks by the IRA. These included the murder of children in the Claudy bombing and sending Patsy Gillespie to his death strapped to a bomb to target an army checkpoint,” he said.