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Community events harmed by association with terrorists says Lord Mayor

Community events in aid of good causes are being harmed by their association with convicted terrorists, the Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon has warned.

On Tuesday, the annual West Armagh Community Festival held a ladies Gaelic football tournament named after Mairead Farrell in Sherry's Field - which is owned by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council (ABC).

Farrell was one of three members of a Provisional IRA active service unit shot dead two days before they planned to bomb a parade of the Royal Anglican Regiment in Gibraltar in March 1988.

Festival organisers, the West Armagh Consortium, have also advertised an under-14s Gaelic football tournament for today in honour of two local Official IRA men, Tony Hughes and Jake McGerrigan, who were killed by soldiers in 1973.

Ulster Unionist Councillor Julie Flaherty wished to stress that her attendance at an event to support a special school and a breast cancer charity as part of the West Armagh Community Festival, should not be seen as an endorsement of the events named after terrorists.

“When I was elected Lord Mayor I said that I wanted to be a Lord Mayor for all. Today I will be at a sponsored fun run organised by the West Armagh Community Festival which is to benefit Lisanally Special School and Armagh Breast Cancer Support," Councillor Flaherty said.

“These are clearly very worthy causes and are issues which affect the entire community and it is only fitting that they receive the wholehearted support which they fully deserve. It is deeply regrettable that they should be dragged into the controversy generated by having events named after convicted terrorists, and be made to suffer by association. That is something which the festival organisers must reflect on.

“I share the concerns of many people at the fact that council facilities were used to host a Women’s Gaelic football tournament named after someone who died on a murder mission to plant a bomb."

The Lord Mayor said that the naming of the events sent out a negative message to the unionist community.

“As my Party colleague Councillor Sam Nicholson has said, this sends out a very negative message to the Unionist community and especially to the people in the ABC Council area who suffered at the hands of IRA terrorism throughout the Troubles," Councillor Flaherty said.

“The Ulster Unionists on ABC council want to work to build a shared future where tolerance, respect and understanding are common place and we are in no doubt that having events named after convicted terrorists as part of a Community festival, does not help community relations or encourage cross-community participation.”

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council said that they had noted the concerns raised around the naming of the events and were looking into it.

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