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DUP anger as councillor pictured near gunman firing shots over coffin of hunger striker's mother

By Donna Deeney

Published 17/07/2015

A gunman fires shots over Peggy O’Hara’s coffin
A gunman fires shots over Peggy O’Hara’s coffin
Peggy O'Hara
Gary Donnelly
A hooded man fires shots over the coffin watched by Gary Donnelly

An independent republican councillor has defended the firing of shots over the coffin of a veteran activist.

Derry and Strabane District councillor Gary Donnelly was present when one of three uniformed and masked men fired a volley of shots outside the home of Peggy O'Hara, the mother of INLA hunger striker Pasty O'Hara.

Councillor Donnelly said the act was "not hostile".

He said: "A number of armed and masked men paid tribute to Peggy by firing shots over her coffin.

"They were fired into the air and there was nothing hostile about it."

The DUP in Londonderry has now called on police to ensure there will be no volley of shots at the funeral.

Police are investigating the incident in the Templegrove area of Derry on Wednesday night.

The funeral of Mrs O'Hara (88), who died on Monday, will take place at St Columb's Church, Long Tower, tomorrow at 10am before burial at the City Cemetery.

Historically, a volley of shots would be fired over the coffin of high-profile republicans such as Mrs O'Hara before burial.

A senior member of the DUP told the Belfast Telegraph he also intends to raise the attendance of councillor Donnelly outside the house where the shots were fired with the council's chief executive and city solicitor.

Maurice Devenney said Mr Donnelly had breached the code of conduct he signed when he became an elected representative.

Mr Devenney said: "There are two main issues of concern here, firstly there is the appearance of guns on the streets of Londonderry on Wednesday evening and there is the appearance of a man who is supposed to represent all of the city applauding a masked and armed gunman.

"Mrs O'Hara's funeral will, I understand, be held on Saturday so police need to make sure there is no repeat of the volley of shots that took place on Wednesday evening.

"There is no room for guns on our streets for any reason and I am sure the majority of people in Londonderry agree with that.

"When we all became councillors, including Mr Donnelly, we signed up to a code of conduct and agreed to act in a manner becoming to the position of a representative of the council.

"I am going to ask the chief executive John Kelpie to investigate Mr Donnelly's behaviour and attendance at this illegal event and take appropriate action if there has been a breach of conduct."

Mr Donnelly responded: "I have no problem with anything Maurice Devenney wants to do, I certainly won't lose any sleep over it.

"The DUP have short memories when it come to their own flirtations with paramilitaries, the most recent was comments by councillor Alan Bresland who said he has no problem with UVF flags flying in Castlederg this year. Let's not forget about Peter Robinson's association with the Ulster Resistance and Willie McCrea standing on a platform with Billy Wright."

A spokesman for the PSNI said: "Police in Londonderry are aware of footage showing shots being fired by masked men on Wednesday 15th July.

"Enquiries into this incident are ongoing. "

A spokeswoman for Derry City and Strabane Council explained that while no complaint had been received by the council, it is not the responsibility of local councils to investigate such matters.

She added: "Any allegations of a breach of the code of conduct must be sent in writing to the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Complaints."

Mrs O'Hara was an unsucessful candidate in the 2007 Assembly elections.

Patsy O'Hara (23) died in the Maze Prison in 1981 after 61 days on hunger strike.

Belfast Telegraph

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