Belfast Telegraph

MLA's Castlederg comments probed

An ethics commissioner from Scotland is to be appointed to investigate complaints that a Northern Ireland assembly member glorified terrorism.

Unionists claimed senior Sinn Fein member and Old Bailey bomber Gerry Kelly's language during a speech at a republican commemoration in Castlederg, Co Tyrone, this summer broke Stormont's code of conduct.

Mr Kelly was addressing a republican demonstration marking the deaths of two IRA bombers killed by their own device near the town.

One Democratic Unionist alleged his remarks could encourage dissident republicans to commit further violence.

Scotland's Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life Stuart Allan will be tasked with investigating following agreement by the Assembly today.

Permanent assembly standards commissioner Douglas Bain has decided he cannot intervene because his membership of the Parades Commission which adjudicates on contentious marches, like Castlederg, would lead to concerns about his impartiality.

North Belfast assemblyman Mr Kelly has denied glorifying terrorism. DUP MLA Tom Buchanan alleged his remarks "rang in the ears" of dissidents.

"Mr Kelly's comments tell those republicans if you believe you have a vision of equality and freedom and if you know the risks you are taking you cannot stand idly by or leave it to others," he told the assembly.

In August 1973 Gerard McGlynn, 18, and Seamus Harvey, 22, died when their bomb exploded prematurely near the town.

On the anniversary of their deaths last month Mr Kelly said: "They were ordinary young men in the extraordinary circumstances of the early 1970s who rose to the challenge of the time. They had a vision of equality and freedom and they knew the risks they were taking to achieve it but they could not stand idly by or leave it to others.

"It is a harsh reality of resistance that we lose some of our best activists during armed conflict and Seamus and Gerard along with their other comrades whom we remember here today, paid with their lives."

The Tyrone Volunteers Day Parade commemorated republicans who died during the Troubles, including the two IRA men.

Several hundred bandsmen and republican supporters took part in the march. Hundreds of protesters, including some family members of IRA murder victims, staged a counter-demonstration.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers had urged organisers to call off the march, saying it was "causing great hurt" to victims of terrorism.

Mr Kelly has argued that he was honouring comrades who gave their lives in the struggle for Irish freedom. He said the centre of Castlederg was supposed to be a "shared space" and almost 20 unionist marches had taken place in the town so far this year.

The senior republican also said there must not be "a hierarchy of victims which would discriminate against republicans and nationalists not just in life, but in death also".

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