Northern Ireland

Michelle O'Neill tells IRA commemoration there is 'no hierarchy of victims'

Sinn Féin's leader in Northern Ireland, Michelle O'Neill, defended her decision to attend the event
Image caption Sinn Féin's leader in Northern Ireland, Michelle O'Neill, defended her decision to attend the event

Sinn Féin's leader in Northern Ireland, Michelle O'Neill, has told an IRA commemoration in County Tyrone that there is "no hierarchy of victims".

She was speaking at an event on Thursday to remember four men who were shot dead by the SAS in her home village of Clonoe in 1992.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said Mrs O'Neill was wrong to attend, but was not surprised.

However, Mrs O'Neill has defended her decision to speak at the event.

She said:"There are some who would say we have no right to remember or to honour them, we have absolutely every right.

"Everyone, it doesn't matter who you are, has the right to remember their dead in a respectful and dignified manner."

Machine-gun attack

The four IRA men were shot dead after attacking Coalisland police station.

Soldiers opened fire on them as they dumped a lorry used in the machine-gun attack in February 1992.

The Ulster Unionist Party's Mid Ulster candidate, Sandra Overend, has criticised Mrs O'Neill for attending the event.

"It is only to be expected that republicans would wish to remember their dead, but Michelle O'Neill's presence at such an event is hardly sending a signal to the unionist community that she is some kind of new departure for Sinn Fein," she said.

'Healing and reconciliation'

An Alliance Party spokesperson said: "While people will naturally want to mark those who died during the Troubles, it is important in doing so, the focus is on healing wounds, reconciliation and not glamorising violence. We need to avoid using the past as a political weapon, instead focusing on healing and reconciliation."

SDLP justice spokesperson Alex Attwood said: "The fundamental roadblock to justice, truth and accountability is the fact that some want to address the past on their own terms and not the terms required by victims and survivors.

"That is what is getting in the way and one of the big reasons why legacy is not being dealt with decisively and ethically.