Christmas Eve dissident memorial service angers unionists - call for event to be banned
Calls have been made for a Christmas Eve dissident republican memorial service in Newry to be banned, 45 years after a bomb killed an 18-year-old civilian.
Aubrey Harshaw died in 1973 along with two IRA members when a premature explosion killed all three men outside a bar on Monaghan Street.
Mr Harshaw was delivering a message to the bar when the bomb, carried by Edward Grant and Brendan Quinn, detonated, killing him instantly.
Dissident republican group Saoradh is organising the service which has been branded tasteless by unionist politicians in south Down.
Ulster Unionist councillor David Taylor called on the event to be banned completely.
"We're obviously very concerned at events of this nature taking place," he said.
"It's distasteful and does nothing to mend community relations within the area. There's been tension surrounding the Raymond McCreesh Park issue and that's had an impact on community relations over the last number of years.
"I've no doubt the wider community will ignore the event but all the same it doesn't help in assisting bringing people together."
A memorial was unveiled last month in the city of a masked gunman emblazoned with the Saoradh logo.
"My thoughts will be with the family of the victim rather than those who perpetrated it," added Mr Taylor.
"We're supposed to be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ at this time of year which is why I believe this event is extremely distasteful, and it would be at any time of year, but it's all the more poignant that it's during the season of goodwill.
"There's clearly an attempt by republicans to develop this narrative that terrorists were some sort of freedom fighters or heroes - that's completely wrong.
"They were terrorists and committed evil crimes and should be remembered in that way.
"I don't think they'll listen to me, but I'd like to see this cancelled."
DUP MLA Jim Wells also condemned the service, adding that his thoughts will be with Mr Harshaw's family.
In a Facebook post, the group, which has a youth wing called Eistigi, paid its own tribute to the IRA men.
"Edward Grant and Brendan Quinn were both tragically killed in a premature explosion on Christmas Eve 1973," it said.
"The volunteers were on active service when, during an operation in Monaghan Street, an improvised explosive device which they were handling detonated prematurely resulting in the deaths of both young volunteers. Tragically, the same bomb also claimed the life of a civilian."
The service is due to begin at noon on Christmas Eve at Derrybeg martyrs monument.