Belfast Telegraph

Gerry Adams hits back at criticism of Derrylin parade

By Chris Kilpatrick

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has hit back at claims a contentious parade to mark the deaths of 10 republican hunger strikers in Derrylin is obnoxious.

Mr Adams defended tomorrow's event at the unveiling of a sculpture to Bobby Sands in west Belfast.

The Sinn Fein president said he was honoured to have been a friend of Sands, who died in the hunger strike in 1981.

And he said all sides in the Troubles had the right to remember their dead – including the UDA, which staged a controversial march in south Belfast on Thursday evening.

There has been unionist anger and frustration from IRA victims' families to the huge hunger strike commemoration due to take place in the Co Fermanagh village.

Six members of the security forces were killed by the IRA in the area during the Troubles, with First Minister Peter Robinson saying the march – organised by Sinn Fein – was obnoxious, intimidating and offensive.

But speaking at the Felons Club on the Falls Road yesterday, Mr Adams defended the commemoration. "To use the term obnoxious is entirely inappropriate," he said.

"Bobby Sands was elected by the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Sinn Fein and the parade organisers are very, very sensitive to victims, and particularly to victims of the IRA.

"So we are doing nothing which would in any way be deemed to be disrespectful, intolerant, offensive or indeed obnoxious, to those families who have lost loved ones."

Kenny Donaldson, from the South East Fermanagh Foundation victims' group, said some Derrylin residents were very uneasy about the event, which more than 10,000 republicans are expected to attend.

He said: "There is actually a deep feeling of anxiousness, some feel there's no need for that parade on their doorstep and they do feel it will very much amount to the glorification of terrorism.

"To my knowledge there isn't a protest planned, but there will, as always, be dignified opportunities taken to remember those who lost their loved ones in those areas."

Earlier this week Ulster Unionist MLA Tom Elliott said: "Such vulgar triumphalism is like walking over the graves of the dead."

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