Belfast Telegraph

Festival organisers 'damaging' relations by naming event after Mairead Farrell

By Gillian Halliday

Festival organisers who held a sporting event named after one of the Gibraltar Three have been accused of "damaging" community relations.

The annual West Armagh Community Festival staged a ladies Gaelic football tournament named after Mairead Farrell in a playing field owned by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council on Tuesday.

Farrell was one of three IRA members shot dead two days before they planned to bomb a parade of the Royal Anglican Regiment in Gibraltar in March 1988.

It is understood this is the first year that the Mairead Farrell tournament took place, but in previous years the festival has included a trophy in honour of two local Official IRA men - Tony Hughes and Jake McGerrigan - killed by soldiers in 1973.

UUP councillor Sam Nicholson said the decision by organisers, the West Armagh Consortium, to laud an individual who died on a "murder mission" was the "height of insensitivity".

"It sends out a very negative message to the unionist community and especially to people in the area who suffered at the hands of IRA terrorism throughout the Troubles," he said.

The fresh criticism comes after the consortium released a statement defending its decision to name festival events after people who are "significant" to the local community.

"There are over 10 events named after local people, not all who died violently," they said.

They also questioned why unionist politicians had singled out Tuesday's event given in the past its members had supported the festival since its inception.

"The West Armagh Community Festival has been in operation for over 20 years and in that time has been officially opened by mayors and lord mayors from all parties within Armagh City and District Council (ACDC)," the organisers said.

"The events causing upset to members of the unionist parties have been part of the festival since its early days, so why are unionist politicians up in arms now, considering that they participated in its official opening over the years and witnessed some of the events in question."

They pointed out Mr Nicholson's UUP colleague, Julie Flaherty, attended the festival's sponsored charity run and walk held yesterday in aid of Lisanally Special School and Armagh Breast Cancer Support in her capacity as the local Lord Mayor.

However, she said it should not been seen as an "endorsement" of the festival's support of dead IRA terrorists.

Belfast Telegraph

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