Eileen Doherty, sister of the murdered Sinn Féin Cllr Eddie Fullerton, has accused Fine Gael party members of “snubbing” last year’s unveiling of a memorial stone to her late brother.
Mrs. Doherty’s open letter came in response to media reports this week that Joe McHugh, Fine Gael TD, had called for the state to mark the centenary of the Ulster Covenant, when 500,000 people pledged opposition to the Home Rule Bill. She said she wished to respond to a public statement the deputy made, “in which he called for a taxpayer-funded commemoration to mark the centenary of the founding of the unionist paramilitary organisation, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) in 1912.
“From the outset, I wish to acknowledge the right of the different traditions on this island to mark events of historical significance and to commemorate loved ones who were killed as a result of the conflict,” Mrs. Doherty wrote. “It is my firm belief that this right should be supported by all public representatives.”
However, she said, “as the sibling of one of the many murder victims of unionist paramilitaries, Cllr. Eddie Fullerton, I feel extremely let down by Deputy McHugh, who remained silent as his party colleagues in Buncrana vehemently opposed the prominent location of the Eddie Fullerton memorial stone”.
She said Deputy McHugh and his elected party colleagues “snubbed” the stone’s unveiling last May, to mark the 20th anniversary of the murder of Cllr. Fullerton, who served on Donegal County Council and Buncrana Urban District Council.
“I simply cannot understand Deputy McHugh’s determination to commemorate the founding of a paramilitary organisation which was responsible for horrific murders like those carried out by the Shankill Butchers and indiscriminate attacks such as the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, while his party opposed and snubbed Eddie Fullerton’s commemorative events,” Mrs. Doherty wrote. “If Joe McHugh is as resolute to contribute to a shared future as he claims, then he should recognise that the victims of unionist paramilitary violence have as much of a right to be remembered as the organisations who killed them.”
In response, Deputy McHugh stated that over the next 10 years the Irish people will mark the centenaries of several events, including the Easter Rising, the Ulster Covenant, the first Dáil, the Government of Ireland Act (Partition), the War of Independence, the treaty and the Civil War.
“The commemorations should be an inclusive and respectful recording of historical events that happened 100 years ago, and no party or grouping has ownership of what should be included or excluded from commemoration,” he said. “Irish people who want to have a genuinely shared future together on this island, acknowledge that we have a shared past, however difficult that past was.”
Deputy McHugh said the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, of which he is co-chairperson, meets in Dublin this spring to make recommendations for cross-channel trade. The meeting will also formally mark the Ulster Covenant centenary.
“The 500,000 signatories included thousands of people from Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan; it is important that history is properly recorded,” he said. “It is also worth saying that I am not responsible for writing headlines for the Mail on Sunday.”
“There is a political responsibility to ensure that the decade of commemoration will be a sober recording of historical events that acknowledges sensitivities that arise from such a traumatic period in Irish history,” he said.