A former IRA bomber from Londonderry has accused Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald of coming into his home city and celebrating the IRA’s ‘suspension of civil and human rights’ under the guise of a civil rights movement commemoration.
On Saturday Ms McDonald marked the 50th anniversary of the Duke Street civil rights march in Londonderry by telling a huge crowd nearby that the ongoing fight for women’s, disability, gay and Irish language rights will be victorious.
The Sinn Fein leader was speaking after marching with thousands of supporters from Duke Street to the city centre.
“It is an honour to be here in Derry,” she said. “The city of Martin McGuinness, John Hume and now of Elisha McCallion. This proud city stands on the shoulders of giants.”
She told a cheering crowd: “While so much has changed, so much progress made, we have much further still to travel ... The battle for equality and civil rights is not history. We will have full civil rights and we will have equality. And we will have a new and united Ireland.”
However, former IRA bomber and Londonderry man Shane Paul Doherty, now a committed Christian, took umbrage at her speech.
“Sinn Fein’s march on Saturday was really a celebration of the IRA’s suspension of the civil and human rights of all of its 1,700 murder victims,” he said.
“Human bombs, those civilians it abducted, tortured, murdered and then disappeared, its mass-casualty anti-civilian bombings and finally, a celebration of its war on truth.
“Facts have been replaced by ‘narratives’ which has now become a term to describe lies, basically. With regard to Sinn Fein’s belated conversion to LGBT rights, I am unable to forget the only two IRA prisoners I ever heard of who ‘came out’ [as gay] in Her Majesty’s prisons in England – a priest and a Dubliner – were both beaten mercilessly by fellow IRA prisoners after discovery of their sexuality and both hospitalised for weeks.”
Mr O’Doherty said that “yesterday’s mass murderers now hijack the clothing of the mostly pacifist civil rights’ movement of the late 1960s”. And he said that the Official and Provisional IRAs were “hell bent” on infiltrating at least the street marches to “infect the teenagers they wanted to fight their proxy campaigns”.
It is depressing, he said, that his fellow citizens now “unthinkingly follow a paramilitary-dominated movement” that was entirely opposed to the old constitutional Nationalist party under Eddie McAteer and “the towering SDLP of the 1970s and 80s” and now claims “the mantle of civil rights’ inheritors while pretending that some 1,700 murder victims never actually happened”.
Meanwhile, gormer civil rights movement activist and SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell has described it as “galling” that Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald would travel from Dublin to Londonderry to give a speech on the movement.
“It is bit galling for us who were in the civil rights movement to have to hear about it from someone coming up here to tell us what it was all about,” he told the News Letter.
“As a former member of the civil rights movement I was active in the late 1960s.
“I find it amusing the number of people who are now trying to wrap that mantle around themselves.
“The civil rights movement was for equality, fairness and social justice, in terms of employment, housing and voting rights.”
Key values of the movement were its inclusivity and non-violence, he said.
“But its ethos was undermined and betrayed by those who resorted to violence and who continue today to try and justify that violence.”
He was involved in the movement in Belfast, Magherafelt and Antrim and noted that young unionist leader Bob Cooper was a leading figure.
East Londonderry DUP MP Gregory Campbell also took issue with the speech.
“The present generation of Sinn Fein leaders seems to be following in the footsteps of their predecessors,” he said.
“Modern day republicans have been boycotting Stormont now for 630 days, much like the ‘old days’ when republicans wouldn’t enter the place. The former generation developed hijacking into an art form in the terrorist sphere and now Mary Lou and Michelle are doing likewise politically with their hijacking of the civil rights commemorations.
“After they’ve finished failing to rewrite events of 50 years ago at the weekend, perhaps they can turn their minds to present day realities and get back to work to try and represent the people they are supposed to by coming back into the government they walked out of nearly two years ago.”