Republican groups clash outside church gates
Republican groups clash outside church gates

Members of Sinn Fein clashed with members of the National Graves Association outside a county Tyrone church on Easter Sunday weekend.

The NGA in Tyrone, which maintains republican graves and memorials, said its collectors were told to leave St Patrick’s Church, Eglish on two successive days.

Chairman Brian Cawley claimed the Sinn Fein members then “proceeded to make their own collection” for the party.

He said that three of its members were accosted while making collections on Saturday night and on Sunday, April 23 and 24.

“One of our collectors is the chairperson of Tyrone National Graves since his release from prison over 20 years ago. He is over 60 years of age as were the other two collectors who are also ex-PoWs. They represent over 120 years service to the cause for Irish freedom.

“Having sought permission from the local parish priest (as they do every year) for the collection, they donned their identity bibs and put out their collection boxes. Almost immediately they were approached and verbally threatened and warned to remove themselves from the area.

“These bullies confiscated our collection boxes and proceeded to make their own collection for Sinn Fein”, he said.

He said National Graves was a non-party political organisation which aims to maintain the graves of our fallen comrades irrespective of whichever political analysis their families may now hold.

A Sinn Fein spokesman said: “Those behind this statement are political opponents of Sinn Fein and our peace strategy.

“Sinn Fein will not become involved in petty disputes with political opponents over the remembrance of our patriot dead. We respect the rights of people and families in particular to commemorate the patriot dead in whatever way they see fit.”

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© 2011 Irish Republican News