Belfast Telegraph

Sister of Birmingham pub bombings victim slams Sinn Fein's Anderson over 'IRA soldiers' claim

Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson
Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson
Julie Hambleton

By Donna Deeney and Mark Edwards

The sister of a woman killed in an IRA bomb atrocity has hit out at a Sinn Fein MEP who described IRA terrorists as "soldiers" who were engaged in a war, branding the comparison sickening.

Martina Anderson MEP, a convicted IRA bomber, sparked controversy on Twitter after a row erupted between UUP MLA Doug Beatie and former Sinn Fein councillor Patrice Hardy.

Ms Hardy had said on the social media platform: "What I still can't get my head around is why an Irishman would ever want to captain an English team?"

She was referring to Irish cricketer Eoin Morgan, who captained England to victory at the recent Cricket World Cup against New Zealand.

In response, Ulster Unionist MLA Mr Beattie, a former soldier, tweeted: "What I still can't get my head around is why any teacher would ever want to be pictured with a convicted terrorist bomber?"

Replying to him, Ms Anderson said: "We were both soldiers and the war is thankfully over.

"The tens of thousands who just voted for me know who I am and what I proudly represent. Attempts to rewrite history and denigrate our struggle has not and will not work."

Julie Hambleton, whose teenage sister Maxine was one of 21 people killed in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings, said last night that Ms Anderson's tweet was hugely disrespectful.

"If it was the war that Martina Anderson thinks (it was), then the cowards who planted the bomb in Birmingham, Warrington, Brighton and Harrods have actually committed war crimes, and as such they should be arrested and brought to mainland Britain or be taken to the Hague and tried for war crimes," she said.

"My sister Maxine like the other 20 victims of the Birmingham bombings were just people living their lives, and had no part in what was happening in Northern Ireland.

"I cannot believe Martina Anderson has the audacity to claim to be a soldier, and what really irritates and angers me is that these people have these titles and hold places of high office in Government given their past, it is sickening."

She continued: "The problem is they don't have the courage of their convictions: they went out, built bombs, planted them and then ran away like the gutless cowards they are.

"Not one of them have the courage to say 'I did it', instead they kept silent and let innocent men including Paddy Hill (one of the Birmingham Six wrongly jailed for the 1974 atrocity) rot in jail for 16 years. So what does that say about their belief in their so-called war, these so called 'soldiers'? It just makes me sick."

Ms Hambleton continued: "While the Good Friday Agreement was good on so many levels, it was not a panacea for peace because people are still being killed and bombs are still being planted.

"The terrorists are not worthy of our time, but they're alive and our loved ones are not, therefore we have to tackle them head-on and we will continue to push and continue to fight until our dying breath. If we do not continue then what sort of society are we going to leave for future generations - a society where terrorists can claim to have been a soldier fighting a war.

"As much as I want to see the gutless b******s that murdered our loved one brought to justice, I wouldn't want what we are going through on them."

Ms Hambleton's condemnation was echoed by DUP MEP Diane Dodds, who said Ms Anderson's tweet was "disgraceful" and an "affront" to innocent victims of terrorism and their families.

"The stark truth is that there was no war in Northern Ireland, only a brutal and ruthless terrorist campaign met by the courage and sacrifice of our security forces. While soldiers and police officers adhered to high standards of practice and professionalism, acting lawfully in a vast majority of cases, those like Martina Anderson brought only wanton destruction and indiscriminate murder and violence to innocent men, women and children."

Sinn Fein had not responded at the time of going to press last night.

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