Belfast Telegraph

MPs' outrage over SAS flags 'shows SF double standards'

By Brett Campbell

Two Sinn Fein MPs have been accused of double standards after they condemned the erection of SAS flags on the anniversary of the Loughgall attack.

Mickey Brady and Francie Molloy both hit out at the flying of the regimental flags on the Co Armagh village's main street.

The flags were spotted close to where eight IRA men were shot dead as they attacked an RUC barracks in the village on May 8, 1987.

It happened as the gang approached the station with a bomb in a hijacked digger.

The IRA men shot were Jim Lynagh, Padraig McKearney, Gerard O'Callaghan, Tony Gormley, Eugene Kelly, Patrick Kelly, Seamus Donnelly and Declan Arthurs.

Civilian Anthony Hughes was killed in crossfire during the SAS ambush.

Mr Brady, the MP for Newry and Armagh, said: "This shameful act of glorification will only serve to add further distress to the families of the nine men executed and I am calling for the immediate removal of the two flags."

Mr Molloy, who is MP for Mid Ulster, branded the appearance of the flags as a "sinister and provocative" development.

He said the incident had been reported to the PSNI by his party.

Mairead and Roisin Kelly of the Loughgall Truth and Justice Campaign said all the families of those killed in the ambush - which included their brother Patrick Kelly - had demanded the immediate removal of the "offensive, disrespectful" flags.

"No one should glorify or mock the deaths of anyone, regardless of who that person was or what that person was doing at the time of their death," the sisters said.

The campaigners said they were "a mark of triumphalism" and called for those responsible to be charged with hate crime for the "sustained campaign" against grieving families.

A PSNI spokesperson confirmed the incident was reported yesterday and said the PSNI is working with partner agencies and community representatives to resolve the matter.

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie said the flags bearing the emblem of the "proud and respected" regiment of the Army should be taken down.

He said it is "unacceptable" if they have been deliberately installed in an attempt to antagonise people.

But the MLA branded Mr Brady's comments as a wonderful example of Sinn Fein double standards.

"These men were not executed," he said. "They were part of an active, armed murder unit and were intent on murdering men women and children who were stopped in their tracks.

"Mickey Brady would be better condemning those who were engaged in a long campaign of violence and end his support of terrorism he expresses through his attempts to justify the actions of the IRA."

DUP MLA Jonathan Buckley also accused Sinn Fein of double standards.

He said it was rich for anyone belonging to Sinn Fein to talk about re-traumatising victims, especially after its Stormont leader attended an event commemorating the dead IRA men as a guest speaker last year.

Michelle O'Neill sparked outrage when she told those in attendance that republicans "are proud of our freedom struggle".

"There is no doubt that Michelle O'Neill reopened a lot of wounds around Loughgall when she spoke at that event," he said.

"Sinn Fein are clearly trying to rewrite history."

Mr Buckley said that many families in the Loughgall community have strong connection with the security forces and are proud of all those who served.

"They are also rightly proud of the SAS who prevented untold carnage on that terrible night and I personally am thankful to them," he added.

Belfast Telegraph

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