Sinn Fein address minister 'sad' at graffiti attack
The Presbyterian minister who addressed the Sinn Fein ard fheis has expressed his “sadness” at threatening graffiti aimed at him.
The Reverend David Latimer was taunted about his ground-breaking speech in which he praised Martin McGuinness’ leadership.
The message ‘Dad’s Army padre joins SF IRA. Goodbye David’ was scrawled over a wall in the mainly Protestant Fountain Street area of Londonderry.
Mr Latimer is a former Territorial Army (TA) chaplain who served for 14 weeks in Helmand province in Afghanistan in 2008.
Speaking before he addressed a ‘send-off' reception for Mr McGuinness at Free Derry Corner as he embarked on his Irish presidential campaign, Mr Latimer said: “I see Martin on a mission towards making peace, and moving in a direction very different to the one he was taking previously.
“I believe that he genuinely wants to make a difference and that he is well-placed to do that.
“His decision to enter the presidential contest has brought media coverage of the Irish election up to a level which it would not have received otherwise. Martin is developing his role as a peacemaker and a peace-builder.”
The First Derry Presbyterian clergyman said his address to Sinn Fein “was not a one-night stand”.
“It was part of a process that is taking us on a journey to find space where people on all sides can move at their own pace and help to heal the hurts of the past.”
Mr Latimer said that he is still receiving messages about his address to the ard fheis.
“About 30% of these are negative and are couched in language far worse than any graffiti. However, the rest of the messages are positive.”
He said that he was particularly saddened by the graffiti that described the TA as ‘Dad's Army’.
“To compare those people who serve in dangerous and difficult places like Afghanistan with 'Dad's Army' is an insult,” he said.
He said that once, in Helmand, “I stood beside 58 body bags, and watched major surgery that was life-changing”.
The Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, the Rt Revd Ken Good, hit out at the graffiti.
“Cowardly and anonymous words specifically intended to intimidate and to undermine other people have done great damage,” he said.
“Martin, I see you as one of the true, great leaders of modern times. My prayer is that he will be empowered and envisioned to take us forward in the inclusive way he is committed to.”
Rev David Latimer, Sinn Fein ard fheis