Northern Ireland news

DUP Bloody Sunday heckling at Westminster 'outrageous'

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood (right) and East Antrim DUP MP Sammy Wilson 
Paul Ainsworth

HECKLING from the DUP benches at Westminster during a call for the British army to apologise for Bloody Sunday days before the 50th anniversary has been condemned as “outrageous”.

The SDLP last night demanded that Sir Jeffrey Donaldson explain an interruption by a party colleague during House of Commons questions.

Foyle MP Colum Eastwood was calling for an apology from the Parachute Regiment for its actions on Bloody Sunday.

Thirteen civil rights protesters were shot dead by British soldiers on January 30 1972. Another man died four months later.

The then British prime minister David Cameron apologised in 2010. But Mr Eastwood told MPs that the Parachute Regiment is “yet to apologise and condemn the actions of their soldiers”.

He also raised the erecting of flags with the paratroopers’ emblem on the outskirts of Derry in recent days, which the regiment itself criticised as “disrespectful”.

“Fifty years ago this week, the Parachute Regiment were sent to my city to murder 14 people,” the SDLP leader said, adding: “People who were unarmed, marching for civil rights.”

While Mr Eastwood was speaking, East Antrim DUP MP Sammy Wilson was heard to say “shame” and “they were there to protect the people of Northern Ireland” upon the SDLP leader referencing paratroopers.

Referring to the flags, Mr Eastwood called them a “grossly offensive act against the victims of Bloody Sunday”.

Mr Wilson’s remarks were criticised by Derry SDLP councillor Brian Tierney, who said Bloody Sunday “forever changed our city”, adding that the heckling was “outrageous”.

“Jeffrey Donaldson should explain why his circus of MPs felt it appropriate to denigrate the people of our city at such a difficult time,” Mr Tierney said.

“The people of Derry have faced down bigger bullies than the DUP front bench before and we’ll continue to demonstrate the dignity that they so obviously lack.”

His party colleague, MLA Matthew O’Toole, said in a tweet: “People who hold and seek public office are understandably and rightly being asked to account for things said in the past.

“But we shouldn’t forget that we have representatives like Sammy Wilson willing to behave this repugnantly, without any shame or accountability.”

The Irish News contacted the DUP for a response last night.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Micheál Martin will lay a wreath at the Bloody Sunday monument in Derry’s Bogside area on Sunday morning.

The ceremony will take place after a ‘Family Walk of Remembrance’ which will re-trace the route of the original civil rights march.

Afterwards, the taoiseach will meet families privately in the Museum of Free Derry.

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