Hunger striker memorial plan ‘insult to victims’

A republican group’s plans to erect a memorial in Bellaghy for two hunger strikers has been described as “abhorrent”.

Wednesday, 8th July 2020, 10:59 am
Bellaghy bawn

The Bellaghy Republican Monument Committee have applied to place a Celtic cross to commemorate next year’s 40th anniversary of the hunger strike in which Francis Hughes and Thomas McElwee died.

They hope to locate the memorial near ‘The Turf Man’ bronze statue which was inspired by the Seamus Heaney poem ‘Digging’, at Castle Street near the village Bawn.

But victims’ campaigner Kenny Donaldson said there is “a feeling of revulsion at what is being proposed”.

Mr Donaldson, a director of services with South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF), said: “Let us be clear; Francis Hughes and Thomas McElwee were not charity workers nor humanitarians – they were systemic terrorists who prowled around the south Londonderry area and beyond committing heinous acts of terror against their fellow neighbours and others within the security forces.

“It is absolutely abhorrent for such an application to be even submitted against the backdrop of the carnage these men reaped across the area they were based. We call upon the application proposers to withdraw the planning request immediately.

“Failing this happening then all eyes move to Mid-Ulster Council and the actions of its councillors – in such a circumstance this then becomes the south Londonderry version of the McCreesh play park issue in Newry.”

Paul Mclean, the DUP group leader on Mid-Ulster District Council, along with local MLA Keith Buchanan, described it as “an insult to the innocent victims”.

A spokesperson for the Bellaghy Republican Monument Committee said: “There is already a plaque there for the republican dead of South Derry but we wanted something for the two local men.

“This has been driven by the young people in the village and since we had a brilliant response to our online petition we decided to go ahead and put in a planning application.

“We hope that it will be looked at favourably and the council will back it. Next year is the 40th anniversary of the hunger strikes and many thought that there should have been something.

“There are Celtic crosses in about every graveyard in Ireland, so I don’t think anyone should be offended.”