IRA victim’s son slams SF claim Britain was chief aggressor of the Troubles
The son of an innocent man shot dead by the IRA 29 years ago today has accused Sinn Fein of insulting victims by suggesting the Government was the "main conflict protagonist" in the Troubles.
The party's controversial claim is contained in its formal response to a public consultation on proposed mechanisms designed to address the toxic legacy of the conflict.
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Speaking at Parliament Buildings, Sinn Fein Assembly Member Gerry Kelly, a convicted bomber, insisted the UK Government bore the greatest responsibility for the conflict.
"They were the main protagonists, they are a government, they had 31,000 troops, they have a standing army of something like 150,000," he said.
"So it is not unreasonable that they were the main protagonists, and certainly in terms of what was suffered within the nationalist population."
But last night Antrim man Marcus Babington (50) hit back, hours before the anniversary of his father Henry's murder on the Cavehill Road in north Belfast as he walked to work on October 4, 1989.
"To hear Gerry Kelly say that is an insult to victims," he said.
"Enough salt has been rubbed in our wounds."
Mr Babington said if it came down to a "head count of the dead, his organisation is the worst", as the IRA was responsible for many more deaths than any other group.
Of the 3,600 people killed during the Troubles, the IRA was responsible for more than 1,700 of the deaths.
Around 370 killings were attributed to the security forces, though a number of families whose loved ones were murdered by loyalists allege the State colluded in those deaths as well.
Mr Babington said while the security forces were responsible for killings such as Bloody Sunday, "they are having their doors knocked - but the IRA is not being held accountable".
He said his mother Maura, now 85, had sought answers from Sinn Fein at a Falls Road advice centre shortly after her husband's murder.
But those inside threw her out onto the street.
At the time the IRA claimed the murder was a case of mistaken identity.
Sinn Fein's blueprint for dealing with legacy issues includes an independent Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) to examine outstanding deaths from the Troubles, as well as an Information Retrieval Commission that would provide details of deaths to victims and survivors privately.
Sinn Fein also criticised Britain for working to "deny wrongdoing, conceal the truth and limit accountability" over its actions during the Troubles, including its involvement in deaths.
But the party's proposals were criticised by DUP leader Arlene Foster and IRA victims, who accused it of trying to rewrite history. Mrs Foster said that republican paramilitaries had been responsible for 60% of deaths in the Troubles.
She said: "This is not about 'different narratives of the past'. It is the continuation of attempts to rewrite history.
"It is not opinions which Sinn Fein seek to change, but hard facts.
"The use of the 'big lie' by Sinn Fein cannot be allowed to distort the truth.
"Nor should the regular repetition of such claims allow the reaction to be one of acceptance or even dismissal because we expect nothing better of Sinn Fein than to continue its defence of a campaign to bomb, shoot, maim and torture people into a united Ireland."
Stephen Gault, whose father Samuel was killed in the 1987 IRA Enniskillen bomb attack, said Sinn Fein should accept that dealing with legacy is a "two-way process".
He said: "Republicans should confront their part in the Troubles, they need to do this. What happened was unjust and unjustified.
"Terrorists on both sides accounted for 90% of deaths during the Troubles, while the State was responsible for 10%.
"Until Sinn Fein disclose their own wrongdoings it is wrong for them to demand the same from the British State."