Belfast Telegraph

PSNI running scared of republicans, claims aunt of infant killed in 1972

Shelley Gilfillan, pictured at a protest, holding a picture of her uncle Hugh Cummings, who was murdered by the IRA in 1982
Shelley Gilfillan, pictured at a protest, holding a picture of her uncle Hugh Cummings, who was murdered by the IRA in 1982
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

The aunt of a five-month-old boy blown up by the IRA on the streets of Strabane in 1972 has questioned whether police are running scared of republicans.

Mavis Clark (73) said she struggles to understand how a band marching at the Apprentice Boys parade in Londonderry can be seen as likely to cause a breach of the peace when Sinn Fein representatives were dancing in the streets of her home town at a hunger strike commemoration the same weekend.

Mrs Clark said her family have never got over the death of baby Alan Jack - one of the youngest Troubles victims - and said she watched in "disgust" as republicans "took over the town" last weekend.

Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson was seen dancing before a speech in which she shouted out the IRA slogan "tiocfaidh ar la" to the thousands assembled.

"Are the police running scared of republicans? That's what the past few days have shown me," Mrs Clark said.

"Alan has so far missed out on 47 years of life. His parents have missed out on 47 years of having a son to be proud of. Instead we have to watch on as the people who support those who murdered a five-month-old baby take over the centre of Strabane, where Alan lost his young life.

"That's disgraceful, but then we see police moving in to surround a band in Londonderry.

"How is one of these things likely to cause a breach of the peace and the other not? How is a paratrooper emblem different to the badges, emblems and speeches we had to see and listen to in Strabane? As ever, the people who killed have the run of the town and the people who didn't have to sit back and suffer. It's not right, it's hurtful and you can only think police must be running scared of those who pose the most threat."

Shelley Gilfillan's uncle, Hugh 'Lexie' Cummings, a part-time UDR man, was murdered by the IRA in Strabane in 1982.

She said the unionist community has lost faith in the PSNI after the different reactions to incidents across Northern Ireland last weekend. She said Martina Anderson has "nothing to offer anyone in this country".

Ms Gilfillan, whose brother Kenneth Smyth was also killed by the IRA in 1971, added: "She's a convicted bomber, yet we have to see her dancing in the street. It's hard to get the words out on how that sight makes me feel.

"It's extremely hurtful, but we have the centre of Strabane closed off to allow Sinn Fein/IRA to dance where my uncle died. They revelled in it, yet when a band takes part in a march in Londonderry they are escorted by the PSNI because they might cause a breach of the peace.

"When my family gather to remember, we do so with dignity. There was nothing dignified on the streets of Strabane last weekend.

"What we got was hateful language and dancing on graves of our loved ones. Is that not worse than a band marching through Londonderry?"

Ms Gilfillan said victims of republican terror "are left with no other opinion other than that there's selective policing".

"We have had Sinn Fein/IRA marches in Castlederg, with emblems of hatred worn, flags flown, yet police are nowhere to be seen," she added.

"When there's an Orange parade police are in front of the bands, behind the bands and on the streets throughout the day.

"What signal does that send to people like me, whose loved ones served this country, and my family, who are left paying the price?

"It's almost as if the PSNI are afraid to police republicans, yet they turn out for a loyalist parade where they are not bombarded with petrol bombs.

"When we're talking about breaches of the peace, what exactly were the actions of republicans in the New Lodge? The police decided to run away.

"Does anyone not care about the feeling of those who have suffered?

"It seems to depend on who you are as to how the PSNI deal with you.

"If that's the way things are going then I fear we have a very hard road ahead again."

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