Sinn Féin goes ahead with visit to site of bombing

 

SINN FÉIN’S youth wing has defied criticism and visited the site of an IRA bombing in which 18 British soldiers died.

The trip by some 40 members of Ógra Shinn Féin to Narrow Water outside Warrenpoint in Co Down was sharply criticised by unionists and the SDLP who said it glorified terrorism.

Eighteen soldiers died in the bombing in August 1979. It was the British army’s biggest single loss of life in the Troubles.

The visit was defended yesterday by Sinn Féin. A spokesman said the visit was neither a glorification nor a commemoration. It was simply a visit to a site of historical significance.

He said the visit, part of a weekend of political debate, was “focused on transition from armed conflict to what we are at now”.

He added: “We hope and we think that what happened at Narrow Water doesn’t occur again. It was part of the conflict, it’s not something that we would be ashamed of in any shape or form. All suffered in the conflict. You can’t airbrush it out of history either. But there is no reason for us to go to gloat over anyone’s death, including British paratroopers.”

The weekend event, held in Newcastle, Co Down, attracted some 50 people from across Ireland. The North’s Education Minister and South Down Assembly member Caitríona Ruane addressed the meeting as did West Tyrone Assembly member Barry McElduff. They did not go to Narrow Water.

A planned open forum to which members of other political parties had been invited did not go ahead.

The spokesman said the Narrow Water visit had been “sensationalised” and the invitations had been turned down.