Belfast Telegraph

Varadkar urged to apologise to victim's family for with 'on-the-run' mayor

By Leona O'Neill

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been branded insensitive and been urged to apologise for the "hurt and offence" caused after he was accompanied by an 'on-the-run' suspect on an official visit to Londonderry.

Shelley Gilfillan, niece of IRA murder victim Lexie Cummings, said she was outraged that Sinn Fein's Donegal mayor Gerry McMonagle, once suspected of the murder of her uncle, made up part of the Taoiseach's entourage during his visit on Saturday.

In 2012, DUP MP Jim Shannon used parliamentary privilege to accuse Mr McMonagle of the 1982 IRA murder of UDR man Mr Cummings in Strabane.

A week after the murder Mr McMonagle was arrested and remanded in custody until he was brought to trial a year later. When the trial started Mr McMonagle was released because papers were not properly countersigned and was promptly rearrested as he left court.

After being released for a second time, Mr McMonagle fled over the border, moving to Donegal, where he became a Sinn Fein councillor, mayor of Letterkenny and now mayor of Donegal. Ms Gilfillan said she has now written to both the PSNI and the Taoiseach to ask them to apologise for the "hurtful" incident.

"I have asked the police for a meeting and I have written to the Taoiseach. I really think that the Taoiseach should have done his homework and looked to see who he was bringing with him. This is very hurtful. An apology would be a start," she said.

Ulster Unionist justice spokesman Doug Beattie MLA said Mr Varadkar's move was insensitive and called for him to apologise for the offence caused to the Cummings family.

"It is inconceivable that someone in Leo Varadkar's office was unaware of the potential hurt that would be caused by standing beside this man. It was hugely insensitive," he said.

In 2010, Ms Gilfillan found out Mr McMonagle's name had been submitted by Sinn Fein as an 'on-the-run' when she received a report on the killing from the Historical Enquiries Team (HET).

The DUP's Gregory Campbell said that the PSNI Chief Constable had questions to answer.

"I will ask him if McMonagle is someone they have a continuing interest in and want to question and if he is, given the fact that he has appeared in Northern Ireland, are they planning to ensure that proceedings are put in place so that they can question him about any outstanding matters," he said.

Sinn Fein said Mr McMonagle was accompanying the Taoiseach "in his democratically elected capacity as the Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council under the auspices of the North West Strategic growth partnership."

The Taoiseach's office declined to comment yesterday.

Belfast Telegraph

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