TOM ELLIOTT was embroiled in controversy last night after he was reported as saying the only ‘ real victims ‘ of the Troubles were those murdered by the IRA. The comments, which were reported in a weekly newspaper, provoked an angry response from SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone who called them ” crass and insensitive ” and asked that they be withdrawn immediately.
However, in a statement to the Irish News last night Mr Elliott said he accepted that victims were caused by various terrorist groups and ” on occasions the security forces “. The former Ulster Unionist Party leader was reported to have made the remark during a meeting of victims of IRA violence at a Co Tyrone hotel last Friday. During the meeting at the Royal Hotel, Cookstown, he read from a list of 44 deaths set to be reinvestigated by the Coroners Service, including those of Sean Brown and Francis Bradley from South Derry.
Mr McGlone said the comments were ” crassly insensitive ” and called on Mr Elliott to ” withdraw them immediately “. Sean Brown (61) was abducted by an LVF gang while locking up the Wolfe Tone GAA club near his Bellaghy home on May 12 1997. The father-of-six was shot and found beside his burning car near Randalstown, Co Antrim. Francis Bradley was 20 when he was killed by the SAS at an IRA arms dump near Toomebridge in 1986. The Castledawson native was shot eight times by special forces. Those who fired the fatal shots did not give evidence at a 1987 inquest. ” My father knew Sean Brown very well. He was highly respected in GAA circles and was murdered by the LVF,” Mr McGlone said. ” I personally knew Francis Bradley very well and the extended family I still know very well. ” The very fact that [ Tom Elliott ] is making a distinction and saying that the only victims are those killed by the IRA, is disgraceful in itself. ” These are families who are still grieving and who have questions to be answered so it is completely crass and insensitive.
” Tom Elliott’s remarks are so abhorrent as to be breathtaking and he has disgraced his office as a public representative, but more grievously than that, he has dishonoured the memory of over 3,000 men, women and children on all sides of our society whose lives were lost in the Troubles. ” He must withdraw his comments immediately and apologise to the families of all those he publicly dismissed as, in effect, worthless. ” If he does not, I for one will be seeking a public censure from the assembly.” However, Mr Elliott responded last night saying : ” At no stage did I suggest or infer, that anyone killed in the Troubles who was not murdered by the IRA were ‘ not real victims ‘.” ” That would be a nonsense because victims in this society were created by a variety of groups and organisations including the IRA, INLA, UDA, UVF various other terrorist splinter groups and on occasions the security forces.”
WITH MANY THANKS TO : SIMON CUNNINGHAM, IRISH NEWS.