Belfast Telegraph

Call for Sinn Fein mayor to resign after he calls IRA killer 'brave' - I will continue to honour republicans says Bateson

Sean Bateson
Sean Bateson

UUP leader Robin Swann has called on the Sinn Fein Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens to resign after he eulogised an IRA killer.

Sean Bateson made a post on Twitter praising convicted murderer and hunger striker Thomas McElwee on the 38th anniversary of his death.

“Oh gallant South Derry you are forever blessed. In the struggle for freedom you have given your best. There's Hughes and there's Bateson, Sheridan & Lee and inscribed with their names now brave Tom McElwee,” the Sinn Fein councillor wrote on Twitter.

Mr Swann said that the post was "another example of Sinn Fein mocking and disrespecting innocent victims".

"He has proved he cannot be a Mayor for all the citizens of Causeway Coast and Glens and should step down from the post before he causes any more offence," the North Antrim MLA said.

In response to criticism over his post Mr Bateson responded defiantly saying that he would "continue to attend republican commemorations which honour and remember those men and women who I believe died in the cause for Irish freedom".

"They are held with the utmost dignity and respect," he said.

The 26-year-old mayor said that the right to remember one's dead is protected under the Good Friday Agreement.

Councillor Bateson pointed out that he was a history teacher and was "fully aware of the different perspectives with regards our past".

"There never will be a one size fits all narrative of our conflict which is hundreds of years of complexities," he said.

Robin Swann
Robin Swann

"It is exactly this understanding which allows me to respect those that hold a unionist and British interpretation."

Mr Swann said that Thomas McElwee was "many things, but brave was not one of them".

McElwee was convicted of being part of an IRA gang who planted bombs in Ballymena in October 1976, one of the bombs killed 26-year-old shop owner Yvonne Dunlop.

He was sentenced to 20 years in prison and joined the 1981 hunger strike, dying on August 8 after 62 days without food.

"We must never forget that Thomas McElwee got to choose the timing and manner of his death, Yvonne Dunlop, like the rest of the IRA’s victims, was given no choice," the UUP leader said.

The recent Tweet is not the first time Councillor Bateson has courted controversy since taking office.

In May he was criticised for posing for photographs at memorials to two dead IRA men.

A Twitter post boasting about tearing down a Union flag - described as a "butcher's apron" by Mr Bateson in the tweet - also surfaced.

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