O’Neill defends role at Loughgall commemoration

Michelle O'Neill is expected to speak at the commemoration. Credit: UTV

Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill has again defended her role at a commemoration for eight IRA men who were shot dead by the SAS in Loughgall three decades ago.

The party's northern leader has been heavily criticised for taking part in the event which is taking place on Sunday evening.

But she said it’s right to remember the dead.

The IRA suffered its greatest loss of life in a single Troubles incident in the Loughall shootings on 8 May 1987.

The SAS had been lying in wait for the ‘East Tyrone Brigade’ members who were intent on blowing up the police station in the Co Armagh village.

All eight men died along with an innocent civilian who was caught in the crossfire.

Three decades on republicans are holding a memorial parade and service for the IRA men in Altmore in Co Tyrone.

Despite the controversy over her guest speaker role, Michelle O'Neill has again repeated her belief that it's right to remember them.

Ms O’Neill went on: “The Good Friday Agreement affirmed that everyone has a right to remember their dead and that is what I will do when I go to the commemoration.”

Critics claim the high-profile politician is sending out the wrong message to the younger generation about the violence of the past.

Former Ulster Unionist Trevor Ringland said: “I think we’re looking to shape a different future from the past.

“The message we have to be passing on is that the use of violence should not be used to further relationships on this island.”