A war of words raged in Limavady today after councillors rejected a call for soldiers returning from Iraq to parade through the town.
Sinn Fein and SDLP councillors voted to reject the notice of motion brought forward by Unionist Leslie Cubitt on Tuesday night.
Mr Cubitt today hit back at Sinn Fein claims that soldiers should “hang their heads in shame”, saying that honouring the members of the Territorial Army and the Royal Irish Regiment was not intended to be political. He added that Sinn Fein should look to the civilian victims of IRA violence before speaking about civilian victims in Iraq.
The motion was defeated by seven votes to six, with unionist councillors backing the motion.
Sinn Fein councillor Paddy Butcher said today that the soldiers were “not welcome here and they are not welcome in Iraq”.
Mr Butcher said his party would not tolerate any “jingoistic celebration of an illegal war launched over false claims about weapons of mass destruction by Bush and Blair”.
He added: “We have opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from the outset. It is estimated that over half a million innocent men, women and children have been killed by allied forces and we don’t feel it is right to glorify those deaths.
“The British Army should hang their head in shame not expect a civic reception at the expense of the rate payers of Limavady borough.”
Mr Butcher said his party totally rejected claims made by unionists during the debate that the soldiers were only “serving their country” and should be honoured.
Mr Cubitt responded today that the comments were “a bit rich” coming from Sinn Fein.
He said: “What about the illegal war that the IRA waged and the number of innocent Protestants killed by the IRA and still being targeted by dissidents?
“What about the innocent people who were killed — the civilians, the policemen, the school teachers — murdered by the IRA thugs in Northern Ireland?”
He added: “We did not want a parade. All we wanted was to honour these people from the TA and RIR who had served in Afghanistan and Iraq and especially the ones from in and around Limavady. There are quite a few people I know who have served there. This wasn't supposed to be political or contentious, whether you agreed with the war or not. I know an awful lot of members of the Roman Catholic faith serving in the RIR and people from the south of Ireland serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Mr Cubitt said it was ironic that members of the Equality Commission had been at the meeting on Tuesday to speak about good relations among councillors. “This shows there is no such thing among councillors in Limavady,” he said.