A WAR of words has erupted among Mid Ulster MLAs following criticism that a Republican commemoration event is to raise funds for a cancer charity.
A tug-of-war event in Pomeroy in memory of IRA man Seamus Woods is to take place this Saturday. However unionist MLAs reacted angrily after posters displaying the event showed a logo of the Marie Curie cancer charity.
Ulster Unionist Sandra Overend, DUP MLA Ian McCrea and TUV MLA Jim Allister all criticised using a republican event to raise money for the charity.
However, the Marie Curie charity has distanced itself from the event saying it was not aware of the event and had no involvement and were unaware that their logo was being used to promote it.
IRA man Seamus Woods from Pomeroy was engaged in a mortar and gun attack on the village’s RUC barracks on July 7 1988 when he was killed.
It is understood a concerned Protestant resident had raised the matter with local representatives and the media.
He did not want to be named but said Sinn Fein was scraping the barrell by using the Marie Curie logo to ‘glorify terrorism’.
Mrs Overend branded as ‘disgusting and insensitive’ what she claims is an attempt by republicans to use the charity with the promotion of a republican terrorist commemoration.
Sandra said: “If republicans wish to commemorate the evil deeds of Seamus Woods then I for one do not believe that the good name of Marie Curie Cancer Care should be sullied by being used to publicise the event.
“If the organisers wish to raise funds for Marie Curie then that is laudable, but to seek to use a body as respected as Marie Curie to both advertise the event and to somehow seek to give it a veneer of respectability is distasteful in the extreme. I know that my views are shared by a great deal of the unionist people who I represent.
“Furthermore, if the GAA is trying to de-politicise itself and make meaningful efforts to engage with other communities, then it would need to ensure that terrorist commemorations are not permitted in GAA premises.
“By all means people should organise events such as Tug-o-War contests or fun days in GAA grounds in support of Marie Curie Cancer Care, but to seek to associate such a respected charity as Marie Curie with dead terrorists is quite frankly sinister. Any attempt to ‘normalise’ the evil acts of terrorists should not be accepted by anyone in today’s society.”
Ian McCrea said it raised questions regarding why the GAA is continuing to tolerate events which ‘openly glorify terrorism by accommodating them at GAA grounds.”
“I do not want to be misrepresentative and have no issue with raising money for charity but I do take issue when this is done with a terrorist label attached to it,” said Mrs Overend.
“Events such as this one only serves to put a strain on community relations in the area and open wounds for the victims of IRA terrorism.
“I also completely condemn the use of the bible verse John 15v13 at the bottom of the poster which states “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”, as no republican terrorist ever laid down his/her life for a friend but only to murder innocent men and women.”
And TUV leader Jim Allister MLA said it was ‘shocking’ that the Marie Curie logo appeared on posters advertising the event.
“Marie Curie is a very worthy charity which does a great deal of good work. It should not be abused by this event in an attempt to bring a veneer of respectability to a celebration of terror.
“Marie Curie seeks to ease the suffering of those who are in their final days on earth. Seamus Woods sought to bring death and suffering.
“I will be writing to Marie Curie to ascertain if they gave their permission for their logo to be employed in this fashion, which I suspect they did not.”
However Cookstown District Councillor Cathal Mallaghan who is from Pomeroy defended the event which has been running for over 10 years.
“It will come as no surprise that republicans commemorate their dead all over Ireland,” he said.
“Seamus was a member of the Pomeroy community and it is important for his friends and family to remember him every year.”
Mr Mallaghan said the event was organised by the Seamus Woods Commemoration Committee. He had helped run the event at Pomeroy Plunketts GAC for a number of years as a steward. Although not able to attend the event this year, he said his party, fully supported it. Mr Mallaghan said he could not comment on the use of the Marie Curie logo on posters.
And Mid Ulster MLA Francie Molloy criticised Jim Allister’s comments.
“Jim Allister is so anxious to make himself relevant that nothing is off limits to his publicity seeking – not even a humanitarian organisation such as Marie Curie.
“Marie Curie does not discriminate in who they care for - it is not part of who they are. For anyone to attempt to involve them in controversy in order to generate selfish publicity is beyond contempt!
“Republicans will not be taking any lectures from Jim Allister.
“He could not even generate enough support among the electorate to have himself elected, having to depend on the votes of others to drag him across the line. I don’t think this type of contemptible comment will make him any more electable.”
A Marie Curie spokesperson said: “We were not aware of this event, have no involvement and were unaware that our logo was being used to promote the event. “Members of the public often create their own events to benefit Marie Curie or decide to donate proceeds from an existing event without advising us.
“All funds raised for Marie Curie help us to continue to care for terminally ill patients and their families across Northern Ireland, both in our Belfast Hospice and through our community nursing service. This year, Marie Curie will spend more than £3 million supporting patients and their families in Northern Ireland”.