Sinn Fein MP Hazzard says office named after IRA killers 'absolutely fitting'
Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard has defended opening his constituency office in a building named after two IRA men as "absolutely fitting".
He was responding after the son of an IRA victim said the centre "glorified" terrorists. MLA Jim Wells described it as a "sickening insult" and questioned the MP's commitment to "represent everyone".
Speaking to BBC Talkback, Mr Hazzard described Mr Wells' comments as "hypocritical" saying the building has been named after Peter McNulty and Paul Magorrian since before he was born. Mr Wells rejected the clams.
The MP said it was "absolutely fitting" both the office and the local Sinn Fein branch were named after them.
"They were killed in their area and their families are held in the highest regard," he said.
"I would also point out that less than 50 metres from this office there is a British war memorial to remember all those that gave their lives in a British uniform, some of whom in that uniform killed Paul Magorrian who was killed beside my office by a British soldier.
"We have a place in Castlewellan where the British army are remembered and our Irish republican dead are remembered and I would call on people to enter this discussion with caution and with a little bit more of the facts."
Mr Hazzard rejected Jim Wells' claim the office move would put people off using his constituency service saying "plenty of people" from across the community had already been in the building looking his support.
"I have no doubt in the society we live in there would be people who would have trouble engaging with me simply because I am a Sinn Fein representative. Likewise there will be people who find it difficult to deal with a DUP representative. That is the type of society we come from.
"The Good Friday Agreement states very, very clearly we are coming out of conflict and we all have right to remember our dead. we have to keep in prinicples of a shared society and moving forward."
Jim Wells rejected Mr Hazzard's accusations of hypocrisy saying he has complained to the House of Commons standards commissioner.
He told the BBC it was a "different situation" for MP Emma Little Pengelly to host a constituency advice service in a band hall which is linked to two UDA men shot by the IRA.
"It's a totally different situation because this is his [Mr Hazzard's] full time constituency office paid for by the tax payer."
"A constituency office has to be neutral... I would never name my constituency office after a loyalist paramilitary that's for sure," he added.
The Commissioner for Standards told the Belfast Telegraph that it was not currently investigating the matter, adding that the funding of MPs' offices was a matter for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA).
However, while IPSA confirmed it does pay some expenses to Sinn Fein MPs, which can include the running of the offices of the party's MPs, it does not have any specific rules over the naming of these offices.
McNulty (47) was killed in a premature bomb explosion during an attack on Castlewellan RUC base on January 26, 1972, while Magorrian (21) was shot dead by the Army in Castlewellan on August 14, 1974.
Belfast Telegraph Digital