John Finucane tells IRA commemoration event that remembrance is a right for every section of society

Sinn Féin MP gives keynote speech at South Armagh Volunteers Commemoration amid criticism by DUP and Tánaiste

Remembrance is a right that should apply “without prejudice” to every section of the society, North Belfast Sinn Féin MP John Finucane has told a commemoration event for IRA volunteers.

More than 600 people gathered at the Mullaghbawn memorial for 24 republicans in South Armagh at the annual ceremony on Sunday afternoon, which has been at the centre of a row after it emerged Mr Finucane was giving the keynote speech.

Addressing the crowd, he spoke of how he was eight years old when loyalist gunmen burst into his family home in north Belfast and fired 14 shots at his father, the solicitor Pat Finucane, in front of him and his siblings in 1989.

His mother was shot once in the attack and survived.


Mr Finucane described his father’s loss and the “brutality of it” as “something that will never leave me, just as such loss will never leave anyone who ever experienced such a thing”.

“Throughout our campaign for truth and justice, I have been clear, repeatedly, that truth and justice is something which every person who has been impacted by our conflict deserves, and is entitled to, irrespective of whether those that inflicted the harm were loyalists, the British state or republicans,” he said.

“I have been consistent in this view, whether it be personally as a campaigner, professionally as a lawyer, or politically as the MP for North Belfast.

“And I would like to expand on that belief for today. For just as truth and justice applies equally to everyone, so too does the right to remember, and the right to commemorate.”

He added that remembrance is a “time of mixed emotions for us all” but is “a right that should apply without prejudice to every section of the society which we now live in today”.

Earlier on Sunday, DUP deputy leader Gavin Robinson urged Mr Finucane to withdraw from the event and accused him of being a “hypocrite” in claiming to represent victims, saying that his presence at an IRA commemoration would “tarnish the memory of victims and their loved ones”.

“This should not be happening,” Mr Robinson told the BBC.

“When we consider the need to reconcile our communities that anybody, let alone a member of parliament and a victim, would go to a family fun day to show respect for terrorists, shows just how shallow some of the commitments about an Ireland for all are, that have been shared with us over the previous number of weeks.”

Sinn Féin branded the controversy as “distraction politics” led by the DUP amid the Stormont deadlock.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin has also criticised Mr Finucane’s decision to be part of the ceremony, which was billed as the South Armagh Volunteers Commemoration.

During his address on Sunday, the North Belfast MP cited commemorations for loyalists, the police and the British army, which he said “take place right across our society and are regularly attended by civic and political representatives”.

“And I will defend, without hesitation, their right to do so,” he said.

“There is nothing to celebrate in conflict, or in our difficult and painful past, but to commemorate those we have loved and lost is a right which everyone, including every single one of us gathered here today, is entitled to, and we do so with dignity and with pride.

“And while there are very different and often conflicting perspectives of the causes of conflict, conflict is thankfully now a thing of the past.”

Seanín Graham

Seanín Graham

Seanín Graham is Northern Correspondent of The Irish Times