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IRA memorial in Fermanagh village causing hurt and anger, says MP Elliott

By Rebecca Black

Published 11/05/2016

The memorial plaque to Bobby Sands in Rosslea, with Seamus McElwain’s photo above it
The memorial plaque to Bobby Sands in Rosslea, with Seamus McElwain’s photo above it
Policeman John Kelly
Arlene Foster, whose father who survived a murder-bid by McElwain

A makeshift shrine to IRA killer Seamus McElwain is causing a chilling effect in a Fermanagh village, an MP has said.

McElwain - who tried to murder First Minister Arlene Foster's father, John Kelly, when she was a child - was killed by the SAS 30 years ago as he attempted to ambush an army patrol.

Two weeks ago, more than 200 republicans attended a Sinn Fein-organised event in McElwain's memory at a plaque in Rosslea dedicated to IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands.

Since then a photograph and an Irish flag have been added to the plaque, turning it into a makeshift memorial to McElwain, who was convicted of murdering a policeman and soldier in 1980.

Ulster Unionist MP Tom Elliott said local people were being terrorised again by the imagery.

"Once again we see members of the Rosslea community confronted by the scourge of terrorist supporters who merely seek to remind the area of the bloody past of their comrades," he said.

"It is disgraceful that this small group of pariahs choose to invest their energies into efforts aimed at dividing the people of Rosslea by provoking them with republican imagery and flags on a wall paid for by public village regeneration funding.

"We have seen previous attempts to stir up immense feelings of hurt and anger on this particular wall as republicans erected a plaque honouring IRA man Bobby Sands.

"Rosslea and the surrounding areas suffered for years at the hands of monstrous men such as Seamus McElwain and do not need to feel that level of fear again."

Mr Elliott has also queried whether public money was used to fund the plaque to Sands.

Some £66,000 was spent in Rosslea as part of the council's environmental improvement scheme to enhance the area, which included improved paving, new flowerbeds and seating.

The plaque was originally erected in 2006 in memory of Sands who was elected Fermanagh South Tyrone MP in 1981 while on hunger strike in the Maze prison. He died a month later. The refurbishment of the privately-owned village square at the junction of Main Street and Church Street has included the building of a new wall, where the plaque has been erected. However, Fermanagh and Omagh Council said it is not funding the plaque.

"The council carried out an environmental improvement scheme in Rosslea during which a plaque to Bobby Sands was removed," a spokeswoman said.

"Following the completion of the environmental improvement scheme, this plaque was re-instated on a wall, but this was not funded or part-funded by the council.

"The council has not adopted the part of the scheme where the plaque is erected."

Mrs Foster blasted the memorial event for McElwain last month. She 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.

"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."

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