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Fury as Sinn Fein MP Gildernew praises IRA man who 'tried to murder' Arlene Foster's father

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Michelle Gildernew retweeted the tribute to Seamus McElwain

Michelle Gildernew retweeted the tribute to Seamus McElwain

Michelle Gildernew retweeted the tribute to Seamus McElwain

Sinn Fein has been accused of rewriting history after an MP praised an IRA man who is believed to have tried to murder First Minister Arlene Foster's father.

Fermanagh-South Tyrone MP and former Stormont Minister Michelle Gildernew posted a tweet in tribute to suspected serial killer Seamus McElwain, who was shot dead by the SAS at Roslea in 1986.

McElwain was killed as he and another man planned a landmine attack on an Army patrol close to the border.

On her Twitter account, Ms Gildernew posted: "Remembering Óglach Séamus McElwain who was killed by British forces on this day in 1986 near Roslea, Co Fermanagh.

"Fuair sé bás ar son Saoirse na hÉireann"

The Irish phrase translates as: "He died for Irish freedom."

But the MP's messages sparked fury from senior DUP MLA Mervyn Storey.

"Thankfully we live in better times," he said.

"Bombing and shooting failed. Democracy won. Terrorism was defeated. Seamus McIlwain was praised by Martin McGuinness as a 'freedom fighter' and a 'saint'.

"Amongst Protestants in Fermanagh in those days, McIlwain was known as a terrorist and a man guilty of murdering people because of their religion.

"Most people wouldn't believe sneaking up and shooting a policeman/farmer at Dernawilt under the cover of darkness whilst young children were yards away was heroic.

"In my opinion it was tragic and absolutely crazy."

He added: "Everyone has the right to remember their dead but no one has a right to rewrite history."

The First Minister is on record as saying she believes that IRA man McElwain tried to murder her father, John Kelly.

John Kelly

In 2016, Mrs Foster told the Belfast Telegraph that McElwain should be remembered for his past as "an evil and sectarian killer".

"He is not someone to be remembered in any warm way," the DUP leader added.

"Glorifying McElwain sends an utterly mixed message to dissident republican terrorists."

McElwain was a member of the IRA's south Fermanagh gang, and has been linked to at least 10 murders.

These included the killings of off-duty UDR man Aubrey Abercrombie near Florencecourt, and Ernest Johnston, an off-duty RUC Reserve Constable, near Roslea, both in 1980. Kenny Donaldson, of Fermanagh-based victim advocacy group SEFF said: "Sinn Fein will claim that it is appropriate for Seamus McElwain to be remembered, that he is one of Ireland's patriot dead who was committed to the unification of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter.

"Let's now be clear: Seamus McElwain did unify Protestants, Catholics and Dissenters through his activities as a terrorist, through stealing and targeting lives from across the community.

"Ms Gildernew has chosen to associate herself with a systemic terrorist: where are her tweets for the innocent victims Seamus McElwain created?"

He added: "There is no honour in murdering your neighbour because you do not share his/her ethnic or religious background."

Sinn Fein did not respond to a request for comment by the time this paper went to press.

Belfast Telegraph