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PUP secretary Helen Smyth's 'pride' at Miami Showband murderers

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 08/08/2015

Helen Smyth
Helen Smyth

A nationalist MLA has angrily denounced a senior PUP party member's online comment in support of the two bombers who died in the Miami Showband atrocity.

The SDLP's Dolores Kelly also criticised all loyalist and republican attempts to "glorify brutal murderers" and claimed that the vast majority of people abhorred such attempts at rewriting history.

The Upper Bann MLA was reacting to a social media comment from PUP secretary Helen Smyth last weekend after a commemorative event held by the ACT Initiative Mid Ulster organisation in Portadown.

She posted on her Facebook and Twitter on the 40th anniversary of the murder: 'We remembered with pride the sacrifice of two Mid Ulster volunteers. Harris Boyle & Wesley Somerville' along with a picture of a memorial to the former UDR and UVF members.

Boyle and Somerville were killed along with three members of the popular cabaret band as they tried to plant the bomb in the band's van outside Newry on July 31, 1975.

Singer Fran O'Toole (29), guitarist Tony Geraghty (23) and 33-year-old trumpeter Brian McCoy were killed in a hail of bullets from the gang after the bomb exploded. Band members Des Lee, Stephen Travers and Ray Millar survived. Last weekend they vowed to continue the fight for justice for their friends and to keep their names alive.

Ms Smyth (below) received significant online abuse after the comment was posted. Mrs Kelly condemned the online abuse, but insisted that the majority of people in Northern Ireland would find any attempts by loyalists or republicans to rewrite their "blood history" as "abhorrent".

"Comments like this are a vile insult to the thousands of innocent people across Northern Ireland who were murdered in the Troubles," she said.

"The SDLP utterly condemns this attempt, whatever side it comes from, to rewrite history and to glorify people who were responsible for the worst crimes and injuries of people in their own communities.

"We used to have tit for tat murders, now it's this tit for tat glorification," she added.

A PUP spokesman insisted that Ms Smyth, a mother of two, had retweeted a post from the ACT Initiative and had not been at the Portadown event herself.

Yesterday PUP leader Billy Hutchinson strongly defended his party secretary and said that social media abuse directed towards her was "vicious, absolutely abhorrent and motivated by blind hatred".

Mr Hutchinson said: "Regardless of political opinion or affiliation, people are entitled to remember those who have died as part of the conflict in Northern Ireland, free from abuse motivated by hatred and bigotry.

"No woman should have to endure this type of abuse, particularly from those who hide behind the cloak of social media."

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