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Sinn Féin MP John Finucane speaking at the IRA memorial event in Co Armagh PA Images
memorial event

Sinn Féin MP tells IRA commemoration that ‘right to remember’ dead must apply to everyone

John Finucane’s solicitor father Pat was gunned down by loyalist paramilitaries inside the family home in 1989.

SINN FÉIN MP John Finucane said the right to commemorate the dead must apply to every section of society as he addressed a controversial IRA memorial event in Co Armagh.

Finucane, who faced calls to rethink his attendance at the commemoration in Mullaghbawn in south Armagh, spoke of his father’s murder during the Troubles as he stressed the importance of remembering lost loved ones.

The North Belfast MP’s solicitor father Pat was gunned down by loyalist paramilitaries inside the family home in north Belfast in 1989.

Finucane’s decision to address yesterday’s event, which was billed as the South Armagh Volunteers Commemoration, prompted anger from victims’ representatives and rival politicians who cited the many murders perpetrated by the IRA’s South Armagh unit during the Northern Ireland conflict.

Sinn Féin has accused the DUP of whipping up a controversy to distract from the party’s role in the ongoing political impasse at Stormont.

The republican party said the event has been held for 13 years and asked why it has not prompted such a reaction in the past.

Finucane began his speech yesterday afternoon by thanking organisers for the invite.

He said he stood in solidarity with the families gathered to remember their loved ones and their “sacrifices and contributions”.

“Remembrance is a time of mixed emotions for us all, especially for those who knew and loved the very people who are being remembered,” he said.

“It raises feelings of sadness and loss, as well as pride and joy at the lives that were lived and lost.

“Such basic and understandable human reactions to loss are no different here in south Armagh than in north Belfast, or indeed anywhere else.

“And it is for those very basic human reasons that we should always cherish our right to remember those who are no longer with us.

“This of course is a right that should apply without prejudice to every section of the society which we now live in today.”

He added: “As you know, I was eight years old when two gunmen burst into my family kitchen and shot my father 14 times, and my mother once, in front of me and my brother and my sister.

“This loss, and the brutality of it, is something that will never leave me, just as such loss will never leave anyone who ever experienced such a thing.

“You will know that what followed for us as a family was a campaign for truth and justice. And over the subsequent decades we uncovered that the loyalist gunmen who entered my home did so as part of a system alongside the police, the British Army, MI5, and along with political cover and sanction, resulted in the deaths of so many – too many – for an incredibly long and sustained period of time.

“Throughout our campaign for truth and justice, I have been clear, repeatedly, that truth and justice is something which every person who has been impacted by our conflict deserves and is entitled to irrespective of whether those that inflicted the harm were loyalists, the British state or republicans.

“I have been consistent in this view whether it be personally as a campaigner, professionally as a lawyer or politically as the MP for north Belfast.

“And I would like to expand on that belief for today. For just as truth and justice applies equally to everyone, so too does the right to remember and the right to commemorate.

“I suffered a very personal and up-close loss by those I have mentioned. And those same organisations, within loyalism, the police, the British Army and military intelligence, all commemorate, remember and stand with the families of their loved ones and those that they respect.

“Those commemorations take place right across our society and are regularly attended by civic and political representatives.

“And I will defend, without hesitation, their right to do so.

“There is nothing to celebrate in conflict or in our difficult and painful past, but to commemorate those we have loved and lost is a right which everyone, including every single one of us gathered here today, is entitled to, and we do so with dignity and with pride.

“And while there are very different and often conflicting perspectives of the causes of conflict, conflict is thankfully now a thing of the past.

“So today we remember with pride the many Irish republicans who gave or lost their lives, with deep sympathy for their grieving families and also respectful of all those who continue to suffer the grief and trauma of conflict.

“As I was eight years old in 1989, I was 18 years old in 1998, voting for the first time in my life for the Good Friday Agreement. The Good Friday Agreement provided a peaceful and democratic pathway to constitutional change and created institutions, inclusive of all communities.

“It addressed the many causes and effects of conflict and allowed us all to consign conflict to the past and to move forward. While there is still work to be done, particularly in relation to legacy issues, the last 25 years of relative peace is a truly remarkable achievement.”


In a weekend message to party members, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson reiterated his criticism of Finucane.

“Challenging Sinn Féin’s attempts to rewrite history is not about being stuck in the past, rather it is about respecting the sons, daughters, mothers and fathers who were cruelly murdered by balaclava wearing IRA terrorists,” he wrote.

“I will use every fibre of my body to stop Northern Ireland ever being gripped by the terrorism of the 1970s, 80s and 90s but part of that is honestly reflecting the barbarity of taking 12 innocent workmen from a van in (Kingsmills) South Armagh.

“The one Catholic was told to run away and the remaining 11 Protestants were lined up and shot with only one surviving to tell the story.

“That is the truth about the Provisional IRA in South Armagh.

“I am mindful that those listed on the ‘South Armagh Roll of Honour’ have family who grieve. They have the right to remember, as do we all. This is not the problem, but rewriting history or eulogising terrorism most certainly is. Celebrating anyone’s membership of the IRA or any other terror group is wrong. Violence or the threat of violence has no place in politics.”

Donaldson added: “We challenge this narrative of the past because failure to do so will aid some misled young people to think violence in some cases is honourable and justifiable.

“The Sinn Féin leadership have a responsibility to honestly address the role of violence in Irish politics. Unless this fundamental is tackled, there will always be a mindset which believes if their objective is not being advanced electorally or politically, then violence must be the only path to progress.”

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