The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and Irish Republican Army (IRA) victims' relatives have slammed the planned parade in honor of the those who died in the 1981 Hunger Strikes. Sinn Fein announced the parade, which is expected to attract 10,000 visitors to the town of Derrylin, County Fermanagh in August.
The village of Derrylin witnessed several IRA murders during the Troubles. At least five members of the security forces were killed in the area. Local UUP politician Tom Elliot said there is a concern that this parade will cause offense and called on Sinn Fein to rethink the idea.
Speaking to UTV Elliot said, “The hunger strikers were by and large members of the IRA and some of them carried out atrocities within that Derrylin area so obviously I do think it's very insensitive.
"It's re-traumatizing those families who had loved ones murdered and I just think it's extremely unfair to those people."
He also said, “We must remember that those who were on hunger strike were in prison, they were in prison because they were terrorists and criminals who had broken the law...This is another move by republicans to try to justify their murderous campaign as being acceptable. It never was acceptable and never will be acceptable to all right-thinking people."
The family of Thomas and Emily Bullock, a husband and wife killed by the IRA in their home, say holding the commemoration so close to the scene of their murders is sick and insulting.
Thomas (53), an off-duty member of the Ulster Defense Regiment, and Emily (50) were shot in their home near the village of Derrylin.
Their niece, Dianne Woods, said the idea of the Hunger Striker’s commemoration parade makes her physically sick.
She told the Belfast Telegraph, “There are no words to describe it. I feel my stomach turning at the minute. It's 42 years ago but it might as well be 42 days.
"It's devastated our family."
Six masked men entered their house and murdered her uncle and aunt.
"My uncle was watching the news. They knocked the door and when my aunt answered they blasted her. They then literally stepped over her body and went on into the living room and shot Tommy.
"I can still visualize being in the morgue with my uncle lying with a bullet through his temple.
"When the gang were leaving the area they blew their horns and cheered."
Sinn Fein representative for Fermanagh south Michelle Gildernew told the Impartial Reporter, “The Hunger Strike was a pivotal moment in Irish history and the people of this county are very proud of the link that we have with the hunger strikes and the historic election of Bobby Sands as an MP. It is right and fitting that this event is now coming to Fermanagh.”
The parade is scheduled to take place on Aug 3. Gildernew said work is underway to minimize the disruption in Derrylin.