Arlene Foster's fury at SF celebration of IRA gunman accused of trying to kill her father
First Minister condemns Sinn Fein event held in honour of notorious Provo gunman
First Minister Arlene Foster has condemned a Sinn Fein-organised event to remember an IRA man she believes tried to murder her policeman father.
Gunman Seamus McElwain was killed by the SAS as he was preparing to ambush a British Army patrol between Lisnaskea and Roslea in Co Fermanagh in 1986.
The 30th anniversary of his death was commemorated at an event in Roslea on Tuesday night which was held, according to Sinn Fein, in the hope of "ensuring Seamus and his dedication to the republican struggle will never be forgotten".
Sean Lynch, who was with McElwain when the SAS opened fire on the pair, was seriously wounded and spent four months in hospital before being jailed for 25 years for possession of explosives and a rifle.
He was released in 1998 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, and elected a Sinn Fein MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone in 2011. He spoke at Tuesday night's event, where more than 200 republicans gathered to remember his friend.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Lynch said: "The large crowd was testament to the impact Seamus' short life had on the local people. We had an in-depth, dignified discussion around Seamus' energy and enthusiasm and nobody disputed his fun-loving personality and his desire for Irish freedom.
"Many members of the crowd were not even born when Seamus was killed and therefore this demonstrated that, like the 1916 volunteers, the 1981 hunger strikers and all of our fallen comrades, the memory of Seamus McElwain will live on around Fermanagh, Monaghan and further afield."
But Mrs Foster has named McElwain as the man she believed tried to shoot dead her late father John Kelly in Lisnaskea in 1979.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mrs Foster said: "McElwain was killed by the SAS as he was going out to take innocent life. Had he not escaped from the Maze Prison he would not have been in contact with the SAS.
"The judge who sentenced McElwain described him as a dangerous man. He was a killer.
"At his funeral he was described as a 'freedom fighter'.
"He was an evil man responsible for the murder of many border Protestants.
"Celebrating the life of McElwain sends a mixed signal to dissidents today. Murder was always wrong. No matter if it was 2016 or 1976."
Kenny Donaldson, the director of South East Fermanagh Foundation, a victims' group based in Lisnaskea, said: "Seamus McElwain was not murdered by the SAS. He along with Sean Lynch were prevented by the SAS from murdering yet more innocent people.
"Because of the actions of Seamus McElwain, supported by individuals such as Sean Lynch and others, very many innocent men and women are no longer in this life.
"Let's be absolutely clear. Seamus McElwain was a terrorist, he was a serial killer who roamed the south Fermanagh area supported by others in search of their next victim. Republicans would have us believe that Seamus McElwain was fighting a war, that he was unavoidably caught up in 'the conflict'."
Mr Donaldson said there were countless assassination attempts of off-duty and serving security force members and other people in what he said was "a concerted campaign of terror and intimidation of a border community with the end game being their forced removal from the border and from the land".
"There was no war and no conflict in south Fermanagh because the minority community refused to retaliate to the dastardly deeds of the Provisional IRA murder squads. Their code was to their belief in God and to the organs of the State to do right by them," he added.
"As of now they remain failed by the UK State and also the Republic of Ireland State, which provided safe haven for serial killers to operate their campaign of ethnic cleansing."