'Everyone has the right to remember their dead in a respectful manner' - O'Neill

Michelle O'Neill at the 25th anniversary commemoration of four IRA men shot dead by the SAS in an ambush in Clonoe
Michelle O'Neill at the 25th anniversary commemoration of four IRA men shot dead by the SAS in an ambush in Clonoe
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Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill has deflected criticism of her attendance at the 25th anniversary commemoration of four young IRA men shot dead in an ambush by the SAS.

In a statement to this paper after Mid Ulster's DUP Assembly candidate Keith Buchanan accused her of 'trying to rewrite the past', she said "everyone has the right to remember their dead in a respectful manner".

Hundreds turned out

Hundreds turned out

Speaking at a commemoration in Clonoe to mark the 25th anniversary of the deaths of four young republicans shot dead by the British army, Ms O'Neill said: "The sacrifice made by Sean, Peter, Paddy and Barry is part of this community. Their memory is revered by this community."

The four men were aged just 20 to 22 when they were shot by the SAS in the car park of Clonoe chapel as they reportedly packed away a gun used in an attack on Coalisland barracks.

Their families are still fighting for "the truth" about events leading up to the SAS ambush on February 16, 1992.

Read more on that here: http://www.tyronetimes.co.uk/news/community-demands-truth-about-clonoe-sas-ambush-molloy-1-3484105

Wreaths laid at the spot

Wreaths laid at the spot

"There are some who would say we have no right to honour and remember them," Ms O'Neill said at the candle-lit vigil last night. "But we have every right.

"Everyone has a right to remember their dead in a respectful manner. There can be no hierarchy of victims.

"Republicans recognise that, but it is the refusal of many within unionism and the British state to do likewise that goes to the heart of many of the problems we are now facing in the political process.

"There is no single narrative to any conflict anywhere in the world or at anytime in history.

Michelle O'Neill was the only speaker at the vigil

Michelle O'Neill was the only speaker at the vigil

"There is no single narrative to any conflict anywhere in the world at any time in history," she went on. "Republicans understand that and accept it. We are committed to building bridges and healing the hurt of the past and to build a better future for all of our children.

But added: "The refusal of the British government to accept that basic truth is the sticking blocking the legacy mechanism of the Stormont House agreement. It is why they are still blocking attempts by families to have inquests into the deaths of their loved ones.

"They don't want the world to know what they did in our country. They don't want the world to know about the death squads, about shoot-to-kill, about the torture and the full extent of collusion. They don't want the world to know what they did in places like Clonoe.

"We are facing a crucial election and we have made it abundantly clear there will be no return to the institutions unless on the basis of equality, respect and integrity and full implementation of previous agreements.

"We are facing up to a Tory government who are wedded to austerity and are hand-in-glove with the DUP and determined to drag the North out of the EU against the wishes of the people, a move that will have catastrophic consequences for the entire island of Ireland.

"These are big challenges and we are in a defining period and facing big challenges that will shape the history of our island and our struggle for a generation to come. Republicans have never been afraid of challenges. These four young men who we remember tonight weren't afraid of any challenge.

"They faced them head-on. They did so out of a desire to build a new future, a new Ireland, a united Ireland, a nation at peace with itself and the world. That is still our goal today."