Northern Ireland

Castlederg parade: Watchdog asked to investigate Gerry Kelly's actions

Gerry Kelly
Image caption Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly made a speech at the controversial parade in Castlederg

A Stormont watchdog has been asked to investigate the behaviour of a Sinn Féin MLA at a controversial parade where dead IRA men were honoured.

Gerry Kelly made a speech at the Tyrone Volunteers Day Parade in Castlederg on Sunday. The event paid tribute to dead republicans, including two IRA bombers.

Unionist politicians have made formal, written complaints to Douglas Bain, the Assembly's Commissioner for Standards.

The DUP's Tom Buchanan and TUV leader Jim Allister asked him to investigate.

'Glorification of terrorism'

Meanwhile, the DUP Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster is seeking an urgent meeting with the Director of Public Prosecutions to find out what standard of evidence is needed to secure prosecutions for alleged glorification of terrorism at the Castlederg parade.

Many unionists were angered that the parade was allowed to go ahead, given that it honoured, among others, two IRA men who were killed by their own bomb in 1973.

Seamus Harvey and Gerard McGlynn died when the device they were transporting into Castlederg exploded prematurely.

Image caption The march celebrated dead republicans, including two IRA bombers

Protesters, including some relatives of IRA murder victims, staged a counter-demonstration against the republican march on Sunday.

Both the parade and the protest passed off without major incident, amid a heavy police presence.

'Paramilitary-style clothing'

On Monday, the DUP said its West Tyrone MLA Tom Buchanan had written to Mr Bain, asking him to investigate whether Mr Kelly's attendance and speech at the parade were in breach of Stormont's code of conduct for MLAs.

Mr Buchanan wrote: "The glorification of terrorism is a criminal offence. His decision to heap praise on those who died while actively breaking the law (transporting a bomb) is in clear breach of the duty to uphold the law."

The DUP MLA identified several requirements listed in the code which he believed Mr Kelly had breached by his actions in Castlederg, including public duty, accountability, equality, promoting good relations and respect.

In his complaint, the TUV leader said that in addressing an event "celebrating the lives of two men who were blown up by their own bomb in the town they intended to attack" the Sinn Féin MLA had "seriously damaged community relations".

Mr Allister also said the Parades Commission determination in relation to the Castledurg parade "clearly stated that no paramilitary-style clothing was to be worn at any time during the parade and that there were to be no depictions of weaponry".

'Hierarchy of victims'

The TUV MLA said both of those conditions had been breached during the march and has submitted photographs taken at the event to be used as evidence of his complaint.

In his address at the commemoration, Mr Kelly said: "No unionist MLA, councillor, MP or minister, no loyalist paramilitary or loyal order spokesperson - no matter how loud they shout, will prevent me or any other republican honouring our comrades who gave their lives in the struggle for Irish freedom and equality."

He added there must not be "a hierarchy of victims which would discriminate against republicans and nationalists not just in life, but in death also".

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