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Fury as would-be Provo bomber Sean Lynch glorifies IRA as the heirs of 1916

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 30/03/2016

Sean Lynch
Sean Lynch

A Sinn Fein MLA has been slammed over anti-British comments made during an Easter commemoration in a border village.

claimed the British empire "was built on oppression, discrimination, torture and death".

He also hailed IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands as "a revolutionary and visionary in the same vein as James Connolly and Padraig Pearse".

The remarks, made during a Sinn Fein Easter commemoration in Pettigo, on the Donegal-Fermanagh border, have angered unionists and victims campaigners.

Ken Funston, whose brother was murdered by the IRA near Pettigo, accused Mr Lynch of being ignorant of the pain of victims. "I find it absolutely incredible the continued insensitivity of Sinn Fein, and how completely ignorant they are of the plight of victims of the Troubles," he said.

Mr Lynch is a Fermanagh-South Tyrone MLA and a former IRA commander.

He was captured by the SAS in 1986 while trying to blow up members of the security forces near Rosslea.

His accomplice, Seamus McElwaine - named by First Minister Arlene Foster as the man who previously tried to shoot dead her father - was killed.

Mr Lynch was seriously wounded and spent several months in hospital.

He received a 25-year prison sentence for possession of explosives and a rifle, but was released in 1998 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

He was elected to the Assembly in 2011, and is one of four Sinn Fein candidates standing in the constituency in May's Assembly election.

Speaking at Monday's event, Mr Lynch said the 1916 Rising was one of the reasons he joined the IRA.

"The British Empire was built on oppression, discrimination, torture and death. Ireland, which had endured centuries of occupation, was no different," he said.

Mr Lynch went on to say the Provisional IRA had the same legitimacy as the men of 1916.

"There are those who would have us believe that these men and women cannot be equated with those of 1916," he added.

Mr Lynch's comments drew condemnation from the family of Ronnie Funston.

The 28-year-old, a former UDR member, was shot dead in March 1984 while working on the family farm at Lowery near Pettigo.

The family was also present at Tullyhommon, where the IRA had planted a bomb on the same day it blew up a Remembrance Sunday event in 1987. The device was four times the size of that in Enniskillen, but failed to explode.

His brother Ken said: "Ronnie was a civilian murdered on his tractor in 1984 in the Tullyhommon area by the IRA. Yet this weekend Sean Lynch of Sinn Fein, who was arrested when attempting to commit murder in Fermanagh, is addressing the people of the adjoining village of Pettigo.

"Did the organisers consider the impact of this, did they consider inviting me to speak? No, of course not. There is much talk of a shared society, but as a border unionist, I don't feel part of it."

Kenny Donaldson from the Innocent Victims United campaign group also criticised the remarks.

"Sean Lynch may be an MLA these days but he is also a convicted terrorist who is linked to many terrorist attacks upon the minority community of Co Fermanagh - particularly the south Fermanagh area," he said.

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