Commemoration cancelled after online attacks

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Attempts to demonise a young Wexford-born IRA Volunteer who died tragically at the age of 21 when a device he was transporting exploded prematurely in London have been condemned.

The 25th anniversary commemoration for Ed O’Brien was due to go ahead on a Sinn Féin Wexford Facebook page on Thursday, but had to be cancelled due to “significant” online abuse targeting the family.

The situation was described as “absolutely shocking” and “disgraceful” by Sinn Féin supporters.

The cancellation of the commemoration was announced on the Facebook page of Wexford councillor Fionntán Ó Súilleabháin, who said that the event had been cancelled because the O’Brien family had been subjected to the “vilest online abuse done by a local political gang”.

Speaking on local radio, he said that attacks of the event were “cheap political pointscoring” and “irrelevant nonsense”. Neither Sinn Féin nor the family had anything to apologise about and the online tribute to O’Brien was a “perfectly normal thing to do”.

It came as former minister for defence Paul Kehoe called on Sinn Féin to distance itself from the commemoration which he said was “further evidence of the party’s connections to the IRA”.

Speaking in the Dublin parliament, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar also described the planned commemoration as “deeply offensive” and called on Sinn Féin to disassociate itself from the event.

The abuse also saw 26 County Senators Gerard Craughwell and Malcolm Byrne condemn the use of the IRA term “Óglaigh na hÉireann” to describe Vol. O’Brien, claiming that only members of the 26 County Army have the right to use the name.

Senator Byrne even proposed the idea that it be illegal for any organisation other than the 26 County Army to use the term.

Councillor Ó Súilleabháin noted the phrase was a historical term going back to the 1913 foundation of a predecessor of the IRA, the Irish Volunteers – its name is a direct translation of Óglaigh na hÉireann.

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