Derry SF mayor’s attendance at service for IRA bombing victims welcomed
DUP MP Gregory Campbell has given a cautious welcome to the decision by a newly-elected Sinn Fein mayor to attend a service in Coleraine commemorating the victims of an IRA bomb attack.
Brenda Chivers, who was elected to the top position on Causeway Coast and Glens Council on Monday, revealed yesterday that she had formally accepted an invitation to the event, which will take place on Sunday.
The remembrance service will mark the 45th anniversary of the 1973 IRA attack that killed six people and injured 33.
Two car bombs exploded in Coleraine on June 12, 1973.
One at Railway Road led to the loss of life and injuries, and the second minutes later in Hanover Place.
Within hours of Ms Chivers' appointment East Londonderry MP Mr Campbell challenged her to attend the council-organised event in what he described as an "early credibility test" for the incoming mayor.
Fellow Sinn Fein member of the council Sean McGlinchey served 18 years in prison for his role in the bombing.
When a motion proposing the remembrance service was debated by the council, Sinn Fein representatives abstained.
It was passed overwhelmingly by 28 votes to one.
Ahead of her appointment as mayor, Ms Chivers had pledged to represent all sections of the community, adding that she would consider all invitations.
Yesterday she said: "I said I would give due consideration to all invitations when I was elected mayor.
"I will be attending Sunday's remembrance service for the victims of the Coleraine bomb."
In response Mr Campbell praised her for sticking to her pledge, but urged Sinn Fein to do more to break with its record of "commemorating terror".
"While I welcome the news that councillor Brenda Chivers has given a commitment to attend events to mark the 45th anniversary since the Coleraine bombing, it is important that Sinn Fein recognise the hurt and pain caused by the IRA's brutal campaign of terror," he said.
Referring to previous comments he had made that it would be "backward and unacceptable" for any mayor to "justify or defend a terrorist atrocity", he urged the party to build on Ms Chivers' gesture.
"There is an opportunity now for Sinn Fein to demonstrate by their actions, not just their words, that they intend to move away from commemorating terror to the point where they could, with some credibility, stand with the innocent victims of terror rather than stand with its perpetrators," he said.
"Given the part played in that atrocity by her Sinn Fein council colleague, I trust that now is the time for her to acknowledge the innocent victims of IRA terrorism and show respect towards them."
In recent months Sinn Fein has come under attack from unionists who accused republicans of supporting a number of public events that they claimed set out to "glorify" the IRA. Last month Colin Worton, whose brother Kenneth was killed in the Kingsmill massacre, hit out at the party after it organised a commemoration in honour of IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh.
Mr Worton accused Sinn Fein of having "glorified" McCreesh's memory.
He claimed it was further proof the party had "not really changed" since the Barry McElduff incident.
Mr McElduff resigned as Sinn Fein West Tyrone MP in January after posting a video with a Kingsmill loaf on his head on the anniversary of the massacre in which 10 Protestant workmen were shot dead by the IRA.