A furious Unionist MLA has called for an independent member of Dungannon District Policing Partnership to resign after he was pictured taking part in a commemorative colour party at a hunger strike rally in Tyrone.
Ruairí Gildernew is the brother of Agriculture Minister and Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew. He is also an independent member of Dungannon and South Tyrone DPP. His father Phelim is a Dungannon councillor and chairman of the local DPP.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams was the main speaker at the event at Galbally GAA grounds in Tyrone last Sunday, which was attended by around a thousand people.
It hit the headlines last week when Culture Minister Nelson McCausland criticised the sporting body for hosting it.
SDLP deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell also called on the GAA to investigate why Sinn Fein was allowed to use its facilities to stage the commemoration rally.
Ulster Unionist Fermanagh MLA Tom Elliott said he believed Mr Gildernew’s actions were “utterly incompatible” with his membership of the DPP and called on him to resign from the post.
“In my opinion, and I think it will be an opinion shared by every unionist, Mr Gildernew has overstepped the mark,” he said. “His presence at this event — an event which commemorates and celebrates IRA terrorists — I believe is surely utterly incompatible with his membership of the DPP.
“Membership of a DPP means that you can't don a pseudo uniform and celebrate the life of terrorists. I would call upon Ruairí Gildernew to stand down from Dungannon DPP. If he is unwilling to do so I would call upon his father, in his capacity as chairman, to ask him to stand down.
“And if neither of them feels that action is required then I would ask the other members of the DPP to make it clear that this sort of behaviour is unacceptable.”
Ulster Unionist deputy leader Danny Kennedy said the event, coupled with an illegal checkpoint in south Armagh at the weekend and increasing dissident activity, was evidence that “there are elements within the IRA and within dissident republicanism who haven't yet put the past behind them and embraced the future”.
“We need to make sure that all of the loose ends of policing and justice are properly tied up before we proceed with devolution,” he said.
Ruairí Gildernew runs Gildernew Environmental, a company which crushes waste, and is described on the Dungannon DPP website simply as being a director.
He has a history of involvement with republicanism including organising commemorative events and exhibitions for eight republican activists killed in Loughgall.
The Belfast Telegraph attempted to contact Mr Gildernew at Gildernew Environmental but there was no answer there yesterday. A Sinn Fein spokesman confirmed Mr Gildernew was a member of Sinn Fein and said: “Ruairí Gildernew is an Irish republican and makes absolutely no apologies for that.
“When republicans enter institutions they do not leave that same republicanism at the door.
“Ruairí is an independent member of the Dungannon DPP, and took part, along with thousands of others, in commemorating and celebrating the lives of Ireland’s hunger strike martyrs.
“Ruairí, like every other member of the DPP, carries out his work to actively hold the PSNI to account on behalf of the community.”