Belfast Telegraph

SDLP chief Colum Eastwood has no regrets over carrying coffin of INLA man Seamus 'Chang' Coyle

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has said he has no regrets over carrying the coffin of a friend who was a former paramilitary - but apologised for the hurt it caused.

Mr Eastwood who was elected as the leader of the SDLP defeating Alasdair McDonnell at the party's annual conference in Armagh last November, took part in the funeral of the Official IRA and INLA member with masked men.

He carried the coffin of Seamus 'Chang' Coyle in 2012.

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Speaking today on the BBC Stephen Nolan Show he said he carried the coffin because he was a "friend".

"The only thing I regret is any hurt that was caused to anybody.

"I regret hurt caused to his family by the fact that I carried the coffin being dragged in to the public domain and that it is raised every time I do an interview.

"But in my community we carry coffins, when somebody dies we show respect. Of course I have no truck for (nothing to do with) the people who were standing near to me, of course I have no truck for violence.

"I was asked to carry somebody who I cared very much about's coffin and thats what we do in our Christian culture, we carry people's coffins."

He added: "It's a respectful thing to do, Seamus Coyle was someone who was on a journey, a long journey.

"He was very much engaged in the peace process, he was somebody who didn't end up as Deputy First Minister but he was on a journey."

"I have no truck with violence. My history in standing up against violence in my own city and everywhere else is there for everybody to see."

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