Belfast Telegraph

Murdered prison officer's son slams 'shameful' Kelly tweets celebrating escape from Maze

by our political staff

The son of a murdered Northern Ireland prison officer has said comments from Gerry Kelly celebrating the Maze Prison escape are "shameful".

DUP councillor Kyle Black's father David was shot dead by the New IRA in November 2012. He was the first prison officer to be killed by republicans following the Good Friday Agreement.

Yesterday Mr Kelly, a Sinn Fein MLA for North Belfast, tweeted about the situation facing Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whom political commentators have said is being "imprisoned" by an anti-Brexit Parliament.

Mr Kelly tweeted: "36 years ago today I was in H Block 7, getting ready to escape from the 'most secure prison in Europe' with 37 other political prisoners. We succeeded. Boris, I'm prepared to give you some advice."

In response to the tweet, Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson wrote that she remembers "that day with pride" and shared an image with the text "so proud of you".

Prison officer James Ferris died from a heart attack after he was stabbed during the escape of 38 prisoners while another, John Adams, was shot in the head, but survived.

Mr Black said that Mr Kelly's comments were "insensitive and highly offensive to the family, friends and colleagues of these officers. Shameful".

Austin Stack said it was "typical" of Sinn Fein to glorify an event in which a prison officer was murdered.

His father Brian Stack was the chief prison officer at Portlaoise Prison in the Republic of Ireland when he was shot by the IRA in 1983. He died 18 months later in hospital from his injuries.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell called for Mr Kelly and Mrs Anderson to apologise for their tweets.

"For either to glory in an act where 20 public servants were injured is outrageous and downright offensive to victims of PIRA terrorism," the East Londonderry MP said.

"Once again this shows that Sinn Fein clings to the legacy of the PIRA and sends mixed messages to the republican terrorists of 2019.

"Whether it is a decision to chase hard-line votes or not both elected Sinn Fein members should apologise and state clearly that we should not glory in the violence of the past."

The chairman of the Prison Officers' Association also condemned the Sinn Fein MLA's tweet.

Ivor Dunne said there was "nothing funny" about the escape.

"Is Gerry Kelly going to give Boris advice on how the IRA put a gun to an unarmed prison officer's head and pulled the trigger and watched him bleed onto the floor of the circle of H7?" he said."Is Mr Kelly going to give the Prime Minister advice on how the IRA stabbed an unarmed prison officer with a screw driver, an assault which eventually led to his death?

"Maybe he will also give advice on how prison officers were hooded and stripped by the prisoners and remain deeply traumatised 36 years later."

Mr Dunne said the Sinn Fein MLA's tweet was "an insult to prison officers and their families".

"What happened that day isn't something funny and tweeting about it as if it were isn't fitting behaviour for an MLA," he said.

The Maze escape was the largest in escape British prison history. Escapees used weapons smuggled into the jail, making their getaway in a food delivery truck.

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