By Anna Maguire
Belfast Telegraph
11 April 2012

A Sinn Fein commemoration for eight IRA men shot dead by the SAS in 1987 has been branded “repulsive” by unionists.

UUP MLA Tom Elliott yesterday called on republicans to cancel a sponsored walk which will mark the 25th anniversary of the Loughgall ambush.

SAS soldiers shot dead the eight-man IRA unit after they launched a bomb attack on the police station in the Co Armagh village on May 8, 1987. An innocent civilian was also killed by the soldiers.

Republicans will complete a sponsored trek of the Sperrins on May 5 to mark the anniversary. Mr Elliott said some local residents are furious.

He said: “The events planned by Sinn Fein, which include a lecture in Moy, were brought to my attention by a number of local residents.

“This includes people who were victims of the Troubles, who are utterly repulsed that terrorists are going to be honoured in their locality.”

He said the planned commemoration is another example of mixed messages emanating from the party. He referred to Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly’s assertion that his party wants a united Ireland where unionists feel welcome.

He said: “On the one hand their chairman used an Easter speech to call for unionists and nationalists to become ‘partners in reconciliation’, while on the other they glorify the actions of terrorists. Sinn Fein should cancel the events planned. If they don’t, then it is clear that their words were empty.”

West Tyrone Sinn Fein MLA Barry McElduff — who is married to a sister of Patrick Kelly, one of the IRA men killed at Loughgall — called ex-UDR man Mr Elliott’s request a nonsense.

His spokesman added: “Republicans are very proud of the contribution made by IRA volunteers… just like unionists have every right to honour their dead.”