Anger at council chair's 'wicked' comments on Poppy Day massacre
An Ulster Unionist MLA has slammed a council chairman for his "wicked and insensitive" comments about the Enniskillen bombing and accused him of "glorifying one of the IRA's most evil" killers.
Sinn Fein's Stephen McCann has provoked outrage by refusing to "go down the road of condemning" the Remembrance Day bombing which killed 11 people and left 63 injured in 1987.
Many of those who died in one of the most notorious atrocities in the Troubles were pensioners.
The West Tyrone councillor, who was appointed the chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council last month, declined to "condemn this or condemn that" during an interview with the Impartial Reporter newspaper. "The root cause of the problem was the British involvement in Ireland," he claimed.
The accomplished piper, who led the funeral cortege of Martin McGuinness through the streets of Londonderry earlier this year, also praised the man Arlene Foster believes tried to kill her father for doing his part to "set the tone for a peaceful resolution".
Seamus McElwaine was shot dead by the SAS in 1986 as he and current Sinn Fein MLA Sean Lynch tried to ambush an Army patrol near Roslea, Co Fermanagh. Lynch, a former IRA commander, was seriously wounded in the botched attack.
"It's people like Seamus McElwaine who have made it possible for people like me to come forward and do what I have to do without having to worry about going to jail," said Mr McCann. The council chair did describe the massacre as a "dreadful day" and said it was wrong - a point he stressed has already been acknowledged by Sinn Fein - but he stopped short of condemnation and refused to say other acts of IRA violence were wrong.
Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA Rosemary Barton branded his comments as proof of "a wicked and deeply flawed sense of reality". She said: "For the new chairman of the council to now refuse to condemn it and those who planted the bomb in the knowledge that civilians would die, is disgusting."
Ms Barton condemned the Poppy Day bombing as a "crime against humanity" and said McCann's "glorification of sectarian killer Seamus McElwaine is also particularly disturbing."
"He was one of the most evil of all the IRA's hit-men, creeping up and shooting innocent people when they were at their most vulnerable, before then cowardly running away into hiding again," she added.
"Sinn Fein claim they stand for equality, respect and integrity. But based on these comments, those words are meaningless when Sinn Fein use them."