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Michael McGibbon widow's revulsion at plans for Belfast city tour from 'dissident perspective'

By Angela Rainey and Stephanie Bell

Published 02/06/2016

Joanne McGibbon
Joanne McGibbon

The widow of a man gunned down by paramilitaries has condemned a dissident republican tourism initiative as "absolutely disgusting".

Joanne McGibbon, whose husband Michael was shot in an alleyway close to the couple's north Belfast home in April, last night challenged the organisers of Uncensored Political Tours to include her family in their tour.

Condemning it as "crazy" and "justifying murder", Joanne (33) said she was horrified to learn of the tours, which are being promoted online and aimed at tourists, local people and youth groups.

She said: "It is crazy; they will actually be promoting dissident republicanism and glorifying it by running these tours.

"It is hard to believe and absolutely disgusting. They can come to my house and interview my family and my children and hear the real story of what dissident republicanism is."

Joanne, a nurse in the Royal Victoria Hospital, fought in vain to save Michael's life when he was shot in Ardoyne.

Michael's children Seana (17), Shea (8), Michaela (6) and Corry-Leigh (4) were left devastated.

Last night a stunned Joanne said: "It is hard to believe that the Government is allowing these tours to happen.

"They are supposed to be trying to catch these people and they are allowing what they do to be promoted to tourists.

"I would happily let them bring their tour to my house and ask my children what it is like to lose their father and I would happily let them know what it is like to lose my husband

"It just doesn't make any sense. It is just crazy."

The tour promises "an unapologetic and unrepentant" republican view of Belfast. The advert reads: "Welcome to Rebel Belfast - for generations the heart of the 'Unfinished Revolution' against the continuing British occupation, imperialism and injustice in Ireland.

"Uncensored Political Tours offer a range of tours facilitated by political activists giving an unapologetic and unrepentant genuine republican analysis of historical events and contemporary political developments within the areas and locations that shaped, define and are most affected by them.

"These tours are intended to give a truthful and factual account of the republican narrative to local people, youth/community organisations and visitors to Ireland."

It is understood that the new business venture will also be promoted to American tourists seeking to trace their ancestral roots here.

DUP MLA William Humphrey said: "I have no doubt that there will be a small minority of people who may buy into this warped and evil logic but the majority of sensible people will have no part whatsoever in this venture.

"Anyone who takes such a 'tour' will hear nothing more than a jaundiced view of politics and one that will also no doubt be historically inaccurate.

"As for the 'unfinished revolution' the people of Northern Ireland - the electorate - show that support for the Union is already strong and is actually growing stronger.

"I've no doubt there will be people in Irish America who may buy into this but they need to understand that a jaundiced view will be all they are getting.

"The people running these tours are not legitimate, they have no electoral support and are also without the support of their community. They are a small minority."

His views were echoed by SDLP MLA Alex Attwood who blasted the operators as "clinging to the past".

"It says everything about these groupings that they say they are 'unrepentant and unapologetic' about the past," he said.

"This is a past that saw civilians bearing the scale of violence and death, hundreds of families bereaved, soldiers and police officers murdered, kangaroo courts, so-called punishment attacks, the destruction of the economy and of jobs and much besides. These groups glorify violence and show contempt for the enormous democratic struggle that created the new politics, new policing and new potential in the future.

"Be it these groups or more mainstream republicans who cling to the past and validate anti-democratic and anti-national armed struggle, they do not represent the people of Ireland."

No one from Sinn Fein wished to comment.

The tour operator did not respond to a request for comment.

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