Belfast Telegraph

Victim attacks Adams over commemoration dinner for Provos killed by SAS in 1988

Former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams
Former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams
Martin and Gerard Harte, who were shot dead by the SAS in 1988
Shelley Gilfillan, relative of two IRA murder victims

By Gillian Halliday

A woman who lost two close relatives during the Troubles has criticised a commemoration event scheduled to take place tonight in Co Tyrone in honour of three IRA men killed 30 years ago.

Shelley Gilfillan said yesterday that the dinner dance - which is to be attended by 300 people and boasts Gerry Adams as its guest of honour - was akin to "dancing on victims' graves".

Former Sinn Fein president Mr Adams will deliver an address at the event, which is being held in Loughmacrory on the outskirts of Omagh in memory of brothers Gerard and Martin Harte and Brian Mullin.

The three were shot dead by the SAS near Drumnakilly, Co Tyrone, on August 30, 1988.

The incident took place 10 days after the IRA carried out the Ballygawley bus massacre, which claimed the lives of eight soldiers.

It is understood that tonight's republican event will be the first in a series taking place in the run-up to the actual date of the anniversary of the three men's deaths.

Ms Gilfillan's uncle Hugh 'Lexie' Cummings, a part-time UDR member, was murdered by the IRA in 1982. Eleven years earlier her brother Kenneth was also shot by the Provos.

She said the dinner dance was "rubbing salt in the wounds" for families like hers.

"It just beggars belief. The victims left behind are living out the sentence day in, day out," she said.

"Our relatives aren't there anymore and the murderers are left walking the street."

Her criticism comes just days after Sinn Fein was condemned by relatives of IRA victims for planning a major hunger strike parade in Castlewellan on August 4.

The party defended its right to mark the anniversary of the deaths of 10 republican hunger strikers in 1981. Last night a spokesperson for Mr Adams said: "There are many different narratives arising out of the years of conflict.

"Sinn Fein accepts and respects the right of others to tell their story and remember their loved ones. Republicans have the same right.

"The Good Friday Agreement in addressing this issue said that 'it is recognised that victims have a right to remember as well as to contribute to a changed society'."

However, Ms Gilfillan said Mr Adams's role in the affair was "laughable" given the TD had recently hit out at dissident republicans who threw explosive devices at his west Belfast home in an attack that also saw the house of his party colleague Bobby Storey targeted. She said: "Afterwards he came out and said that he wanted to ask whoever threw the bombs why they did it.

"A lot of victims' families out there would've liked to have asked Gerry the same question, but can't.

"It seems to be one rule for them and one rule for others. He's been asked to speak to many relatives of victims and he's refused.

"It's hypocritical and the saying 'pot calling the kettle black' comes to mind."

The Co Tyrone woman, who participated in a counter-protest against a republican parade honouring local IRA men held in Castlederg in August 2013, also branded Sinn Fein's equality agenda a "sham".

"They're trying their best to rewrite history to their own tune," she claimed.

"There's a terrible lot of people grieving, children without parents, their mother or father ripped from them. Innocent people.

"Those (IRA) men were out with their faces covered, creeping out at night, attempting to take lives of men and women trying to do an honest day's work.

"So many victims' families are being forgotten and these boys are being made into heroes. I don't think they should be allowed to hold parades or dinner dances for them."

Her words were echoed by Kenny Donaldson, director at victims' group South East Fermanagh Foundation, who said Sinn Fein had once again shown scant regard for relatives of republican terrorism by participating in another high-profile commemoration event.

"The reality is that those killed in the SAS ambush at Drumnakilly were on their way to carry out further murder when they were halted in their tracks," he said.

"It is clear that these individuals were systemic terrorists who carried out many operations on behalf of the Provisional IRA.

"Where is Sinn Fein's concern for the innocents whose lives were stolen as a result of the actions of these men?

"'Remembering our patriot dead' is an often-used phrase by members of the republican movement, but where is the patriotism in murder?"

Belfast Telegraph


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