Call for Ian Paisley to apologise over 'IRA murder' slur
Northern Ireland's former first minister Ian Paisley has come under pressure to apologise for linking innocent murder victims to the IRA.
The former Democratic Unionist leader made the allegations in the House of Commons in 1999 amid growing speculation of security force collusion in the 1976 murder of three brothers in South Armagh.
A special debate in the Northern Ireland Assembly heard how Mr Paisley used parliamentary privilege to quote a police file that he said accused the dead men's brother, Eugene Reavey, of being a leading republican responsible for a notorious sectarian attack.
An investigation subsequently cleared Mr Reavey, and his brothers John Martin aged 24, Brian, 22, and Anthony, 17, of any wrongdoing. Stormont Justice Minister David Ford repeated in the Assembly that the family was entirely innocent.
A representative of the nationalist SDLP, Dominic Bradley, said: "The Reavey family have been the victims of collusion, not once but twice.
"The first time when three members of the family were murdered by the UVF (Loyalist paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force) acting with the help of elements in the security forces, and the second nearly a quarter of a century later when the name of one of the surviving brothers, Eugene, was blackened under the shield of parliamentary privilege.
"None of this was true. [Former] RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan said very clearly that 'no police file contained any such allegation'."
Mr Bradley added: "Ian Paisley is known as 'the big man' - he now has the opportunity to show that he is big, not just in stature, but in heart and in mind as well. I hope for the sake of Sadie Reavey (88-year-old mother of the victims) that he matches up to that description.
"Many more people died in South Armagh and I remember all of them here this evening. I hope that their loved ones get the truth which they deserve.
"I ask this House to join me in that sentiment and to recognise the innocence of the murdered Reavey brothers and the whole family, and to join me in urging Dr Paisley to do the right thing by them."