Outrage as Sinn Fein Policing and Community Safety Partnership member calls for return of the IRA
Fury has erupted after a Sinn Fein member who sits on a Policing and Community Safety Partnership called for the return of the IRA.
Martin Connolly made the call on the Facebook page of a brother of Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. The post has since been deleted.
Mr Connolly, who is also a co-ordinator for the Community Restorative Justice Ireland scheme in Londonderry, posted his comment after Sinn Fein election posters appeared on a bonfire in the Bogside.
Writing on the Facebook page of Willie McGuinness, he said: "The photographs of republican leadership on this bonfire is a bloody disgrace and all those so-called locals who were so verbal ... backing this attack on our community need to take a good look at the destruction of our community tomorrow, nothing to do with yous, just blame it on the community workers and Sinn Fein.
"When our communities needed protection from the state years ago, they asked for it. My opinion, bring back the IRA."
Mr Connolly last night declined to comment to the Belfast Telegraph on his controversial remarks. "I won't be saying anything at the minute," he said.
Sinn Fein was shocked and angered when its election material appeared on a bonfire attended by around 2,000 people on the Lecky Road on Monday night.
Posters of Martin McGuinness, Gerry Adams, Martina Anderson, and Raymond McCartney were burned along with Union flags and Orange Order emblems.
Mr Connolly is a prominent Sinn Fein member in Derry.
He sits as an independent on the Derry City and Strabane Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP), which is funded by the Department of Justice and the Northern Ireland Policing Board.
PCSPs are tasked with reducing crime and enhancing community safety.
They also monitor the performance of the PSNI in their local area. Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy said that Mr Connolly must be immediately removed as a PCSP member. "Martin Connolly still adopts traditional Sinn Fein attitudes to problem-solving, attitudes that we are often told are long gone," Mr Kennedy said.
"He quite disgracefully and deplorably advocated the return of the IRA. Presumably, he wants the IRA to enforce some sort of punishment and discipline in republican areas. The Sinn Fein leadership must distance themselves from his comments. They must suspend or expel him."
The UUP MLA said that Mr Connolly's views were "totally incompatible" with PCSP membership. DUP MP Gregory Campbell said Mr Connolly must make a "full and unequivocal apology" and withdraw his controversial remarks.
"Calling for the return of the IRA is utterly incompatible with PCSP membership. For anyone who sits on the PCSP to call for the return to the streets of a terrorist organisation is shocking," he said.
Mr Campbell said that Sinn Fein was "clearly frustrated" and concerned that it was losing control on the ground in working-class nationalist areas. He called on the party to review Mr Connolly's membership in light of his remarks and for the PCSP to also review his position.
TUV leader Jim Allister said: "It is totally inappropriate for someone who sits on the PCSP to be holding and voicing such opinions. Martin Connolly's views also expose the lie that the IRA no longer exists.
"We are told this time and time again. But he is openly saying that the IRA is available to bring back and is available to play a role on the streets of Northern Ireland."
Mr Connolly is a co-ordinator with the Outer North Community Restorative Justice scheme. He has also been involved in various projects working with young people in Derry.