The unveiling of a mural days after the Manchester bomb in honour of an IRA man killed in a gun battle is “distasteful” and “sad”, a DUP MLA has said.
The mural to IRA man George McBrearty was unveiled in the Creggan area of Londonderry on Sunday to coincide with the date of his death on May 28, 1981.
The mural bears an inscription which reads: “In proud memory and tribute to IRA Vol. George McBrearty and his comrade IRA Vol. Charles (Pop) Maguire. Irish Patriots.
“Killed fighting for freedom by British troops 28th May 1981”.
Foyle MLA Gary Middleton described the mural as “glorification of terrorism”.
He said: “This is unfortunate for a number of reasons, the first of them being the timing of it.
“Terrorism is terrorism, whether it be here in Northern Ireland or whether it be on the mainland. It is so raw, just after a terrible tragedy in Manchester.”
He continued: “To me it’s distasteful. It is sad in my opinion.”
John Crawley, delivering the main address at the unveiling, said McBrearty had “stood resolutely at the tip of the spear” as part of his struggle to remove “the British gunman from Irish politics”.
He added: “George was an active and courageous IRA freedom fighter. He led, as only real leaders do, by example.”
DUP MLA Gary Middleton said: “People are entitled to remember their dead but for them to honour them as heroes when there are so many innocent victims out there who are suffering, it is very hurtful for them.
“These murals are a daily reminder of the individuals who went out to cause harm.”
Drawing parallels between the IRA and Islamist terror groups, Mr Middleton said: “There is a direct comparison between an IRA terrorist and somebody who went out in the name of ISIS. To me there is no difference.”
The Londonderry DUP man condemned the wider issue of “glorification of terrorism” he said is apparent in the unveiling of the new mural, making particular reference to the effect on victims.
“Obviously it is divisive and it is hurtful,” he said.
“In reality, these people went out to kill. When others went out to protect and serve the community, these people went out to cause harm.”
Mr Middleton continued: “There are still a lot of unanswered questions and there is a feeling among victims of terrorism that there seems to be a re-writing of history to almost justify the wrongdoing that was done by terrorists over these last 40 years.”
WHO WAS MCBREARTY?
George McBrearty was shot dead, along with his IRA comrade Charles Maguire, by the SAS at the junction of Southway and the Lone Moor Road in Londonderry on May 28, 1981.
Reports in local newspaper the Derry Journal, dated May 29, 1981, state that members of the Provisional IRA were travelling in a hijacked car when another car, containing four SAS men, pulled up alongside the vehicle containing George McBrearty, Charles Maguire, and two others.
The newspaper reported that gunfire was exchanged between the IRA men and the SAS soldiers before the car containing wounded IRA men drove back into the Creggan area where it was later found burned out.
George McBrearty was 24 at the time of his death and Charles Maguire was 21.