Northern Ireland news

Online tribute to IRA man accused by Arlene Foster of trying to murder her father slammed as 'justifying terror'

The online tribute to IRA man Seamus McElwaine
Paul Ainsworth

AN online commemoration event to honour an IRA man linked by First Minister Arlene Foster to the attempted murder of her father has been criticised by the DUP.

The 'Remembering IRA Volunteer Seamus McElwaine' event was broadcast on a Sinn Féin Facebook page yesterday, paying tribute to the 26-year-old from Knockatallon in Co Monaghan who was shot dead by SAS members on April 26, 1986 at Rosslea, Co Fermanagh during a planned ambush of a British Army patrol.

The broadcast on the Monaghan Facebook page featured contributions from Sinn Féin MLA for Fermanagh South Tyrone Seán Lynch, who was wounded alongside McElwaine at the time of the shooting, and Matt Carthy, a Sinn Féin TD for Cavan Monaghan.

A notice posted online for the event to mark the 35th anniversary of his death describes McElwaine as "a great Irish patriot" and "one of Monaghan's bravest sons".

The post adds: "Seamus was assassinated by British forces 35 years ago today while on active service with the Fermanagh brigade. He is remembered with pride."

In 2015, then-finance minister Arlene Foster said in an interview that she believed McElwaine was the IRA man behind an attempt on the life of her father, part-time RUC officer John Kelly, who was shot in the head at their Co Fermanagh farm in 1979.

Her father survived the attack, which a then eight-year-old Mrs Foster witnessed the aftermath of.

The first minister later described McElwaine as an "evil and sectarian killer" following an online tribute posted by MLA Seán Lynch in 2016.

Mrs Foster was asked about the commemoration event for the IRA man on a visit to a youth centre in Belfast on Tuesday.

“My thoughts on Seamus McElwaine are the same as they were when he tried to murder my father when I was eight-and-a-half years old,” she said.

“He’s an evil, sectarian killer. He was about to commit murder again when he was shot by Crown forces.

“He was evil. He was sectarian and he murdered many people along the Fermanagh border and I don’t think there’s any role for politicians who are supposed to be democratic politicians to be celebrating the life of somebody like that.”

McElwaine had been linked with up to 11 killings during the Troubles, and in 1982 was convicted of the 1980 murders of UDR corporal Aubrey Abercrombie and RUC Reserve Constable Ernest Johnston.

Last night's online commemoration was condemned by DUP Policing Board member Mervyn Storey.

"Seamus McElwaine was described as a "dangerous killer" by the judge at his trial and he was undoubtedly involved in the campaign of sectarian murder directed against the minority Protestant community along the Fermanagh border," he told The Irish News.

Referring to a recent dissident republican attack on a policewoman in Co Derry, he continued: "Within the last few days in Northern Ireland there has been widespread revulsion that terrorists would place the life of a child at risk in their despicable attempts to drag us back to the violence of the past.

"Sinn Féin however continue to justify the murder and terrorism those groups seek to emulate, including the deliberate murder of children."

A spokesman for Sinn Féin said: "Everyone has the right to commemorate their dead in a dignified and respectful manner."

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