Belfast truth march was 'hijacked by republican agenda', says brother of IRA victim
A protest march by families of Troubles victims was "hijacked" by "victim-makers", critics have said.
Thousands of people assembled in front of City Hall on Sunday for the Time for Truth march, demanding action on stalled efforts to deal with the legacy of the conflict.
Several proposals are on hold due to the Stormont stalemate, such as an independent Historical Investigations Unit, a truth and recovery body, and increased funds for coroners' inquests and Police Ombudsman probes.
The weekend event was billed as being open to both sides of the community, but did not include any unionist speakers. Most victims who attended were from the nationalist community.
TUV leader Jim Allister criticised the attendance of former IRA members and current Sinn Fein MLAs Gerry Kelly and Caral Ni Chuilin, as well Sinn Fein councillor Deirdre Hargey.
Ms Hargey was among 70 people present at Magennis' Bar on January 30, 2005, when Robert McCartney was murdered nearby, following a dispute inside the bar. However, in a statement to a solicitor, Ms Hargey said she saw nothing.
"It's part of their brazenness that they are so corrupting the situation that they parade demanding truth when they have peddled lies around IRA involvement," Mr Allister said.
"This was an anti-state event and it's no surprise that the Shinners were fronting it up - it was their show.
"These people are talking about the need for truth when they represent those who have concealed and denied the truth for decades.
"This would cause more hurt and anger for victims.
"Far from being a healing exercise, it will have opened up old wounds."
Colin Worton, whose 24-year-old brother Kenneth was killed by the IRA at Kingsmill, said he "wouldn't have felt comfortable" attending a parade which had been "hijacked by Sinn Fein and the republican agenda".
He said he "resented" the attendance of Gerry Kelly, Caral Ni Chuilin and Deirdre Hargey.
"Anybody that has been a terrorist and a victim-maker, to say they are representing victims is odd, it's strange," he said.
"How can they say they are representing victims when they have made victims? Everyone wants the truth, but they have to start with the ones they are standing with.
"They have to prove they are sincere, and the only way to prove that to the unionist community is to tell what they did and admit what they know."
One of the march organisers was John Teggart, whose father Daniel was shot dead by soldiers in Ballymurphy in 1971.
His 15-year-old brother Bernard was abducted and murdered by the IRA in 1973.
Mr Teggart said that it "wasn't the intention" for the march to be one-sided.
He deemed the criticism an "attempt to make a division among victims" and defended the Sinn Fein members who attended the march for "supporting victims".
"It was open to everyone - not just Protestants or Catholics, but all victims," he said.
"There were no political banners and even I didn't know who would be there on the day.
"I contacted people from the unionist community and asked if they wanted to take part, and they said they would love to but were unable to due to personal circumstances.
"I also reached out to victims of Kingsmill, La Mon and the Shankill bomb."
Mr Teggart said he "can't understand" the row over the Sinn Fein representatives' attendance.
"On that march were people from Sinn Fein, Alliance, People Before Profit and the SDLP - everybody was invited," he continued.
"The ones criticising it want to stop victims getting to the truth.
"I would ask who was not on the march and why they were not supporting us.
"I welcome the support of those who were there - there was no political agenda.
"I'm really disappointed at comments on social media."
A Sinn Fein spokesperson said: "The March for Truth saw thousands of people on the street supporting the victims and families who have been denied justice and truth.
"There is an onus on the British government to begin the consultation on the legacy mechanisms agreed at Stormont House while ensuring the proposed section on statute of limitations/amnesty is removed.
"They should also move immediately and release the money requested by the Lord Chief Justice for legacy inquests."
Asked when the consultation on legacy proposals would begin, a Northern Ireland Office spokesperson stated: "This government has set out clear manifesto commitments to take forward the Stormont House Agreement legacy institutions and to support inquest reform.
"As the Secretary of State has made clear, her preference would have been to launch the consultation in the context of a political agreement to restore devolution but will consider how to implement Stormont House legacy institutions as soon as possible.
"The government announced £150m in 2014 to support legacy reform in Northern Ireland."