A victims campaigner has condemned Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness’s “idolisation” of hunger striker Thomas McElwee at a recent commemoration in Bellaghy.
Innocent Victims United [IVU] spokesman, Kenny Donaldson, said: “Thomas McElwee like all others who died (irrespective of the circumstances) has a family and we are mindful of their right to remember him in a private and dignified manner.
“But what we will not accept are public shows of terrorism idolatry.
“In describing Thomas McElwee as a ‘hero’ this is what the Deputy First Minister is promoting,” Mr Donaldson added.
“Let’s be clear; Thomas McElwee was a convicted terrorist with a substantive history of terrorist criminal activity - he was a renowned serial bomber.”
Outlining a number of “terrorism activities” he said McElwee was involved in before his imprisonment and death he listed “ambushes on British Army patrols as well carrying out bomb attacks in neighbouring towns such as Magherafelt, Castledawson, and Maghera over many years”.
“In October 1976, McElwee took part in a planned bombing blitz on the town of Ballymena,” he added, and “the murder of 26-year-old Yvonne Dunlop, who was burnt alive when one of the firebombs destroyed her clothes shop”.
“The word ‘hero’ in its’ true meaning is someone who risks themselves for the safety of others - Firemen, Police Officers, Bomb Disposal personnel are examples of such groupings of people,” Mr Donaldson went on.
“The true heroes and martyrs of this society over the Troubles were those who rejected violence.”