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Sheehan 'proud to have been in IRA'


Pat Sheehan said he was proud to have been in the IRA

Pat Sheehan said he was proud to have been in the IRA

Pat Sheehan said he was proud to have been in the IRA

Former republican hungerstriker Pat Sheehan, who replaced Gerry Adams in the Northern Ireland Assembly, has used his maiden speech to say he was proud to be a former IRA member.

But during what was often a heated debate on changing the legal status of victims of the Troubles, he said he wanted to "reach out" to unionists.

The DUP demanded the replacement of legislation that describes all those killed as victims, but the former IRA prisoner urged unionists to accept that all victims should be treated as equal.

The SDLP backed a Sinn Fein Petition of Concern that ensured the changes could not pass without cross-community support, but the effective blocking of the legislation sparked strong criticism from unionists.

The DUP's Arlene Foster detailed how her family's security force links had seen them intimidated by republicans, but Mr Sheehan said unionists ignored the nationalist experience of the Troubles.

"The members on the other side of the House should at some stage remove the scales from their eyes and recognise that there was a conflict here, it was a political conflict and as a result of that, terrible things happened and people became victims," he said.

"I make no secret of my past and I listened to the member on the other side describe how she was proud of the fact that her father was a member of the RUC, and I accept that.

"But I am also proud of the fact of my involvement in the conflict and I make no secret of that.

"I am not ashamed of the IRA, however they did things that were wrong. There is no doubt about that.

"But on the other side of this House, it seems to be that those who served with the Crown on their hats do no wrong."