Two Sinn Fein Government ministers are being investigated by police for taking part in an illegal parade in South Armagh.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Regional Development Minister Conor |Murphy addressed the commemoration for dead IRA men in the grounds of the Ti Chulainn Centre in Mullaghbawn.
Last week the Belfast Telegraph published photographs of children dressed up as paramilitaries and posing with replica guns at the centre in October.
Hundreds of Sinn Fein members and several bands took part in the parade to the centre the following day.
The organisers failed to give the mandatory legal notice to police. The PSNI and Parades Commission are both investigating the illegal event.
A Parades Commission spokesman said: “Police must receive 28 days’ notice of an intention to march — they then inform us. This didn’t happen, so the parade wasn’t legal.”
A PSNI spokesman said: “Police can confirm a complaint has been made and an investigation is under way into a report of this parade. No relevant paperwork from the organisers was received by police prior to the event.”
The illegal march was openly reported on the Ogra Sinn Fein website. It stated that Sinn Fein members from across Ireland took part in the march for the unveiling of a monument to 24 dead IRA men.
Martin McGuinness gave the oration. Conor Murphy made presentations to the dead IRA members’ families. A Sinn Fein spokesman yesterday confirmed the ministers had taken part in the parade, but claimed it wasn’t organised by Sinn Fein.
He said an “administrative oversight” by a “local commemoration committee” meant notification hadn’t been given for the march. Neither the Sinn Fein ministers nor anyone else taking part were aware that “the proper paperwork hadn’t been submitted,” he added.
The PSNI has adopted a hard line with other illegal republican parades.
In January police filmed those at a dissident republican prisoners’ march in Lurgan. Officers with loud-hailers warned marchers the parade was illegal and they could be prosecuted. Four people were later arrested and files sent to the PPS.
Prominent independent republicans were also arrested following an illegal commemoration in Co Tyrone last September.
Protestant victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer, who has raised the issue with the Parades Commission, said: “There can’t be one law for republicans in some parts of the country and another for Sinn Fein in south Armagh. Martin McGuinness and Conor Murphy must be immediately questioned by police.”
The matter was discussed yesterday at a meeting between the Chief Constable and TUV Assembly candidate Barrie Halliday.
UUP MLA Danny Kennedy said: “Martin McGuinness and Conor Murphy should be ashamed of themselves for taking part in this parade.”