On the 30th anniversary of his death, Sinn Féin has called for an independent public inquiry into the killing of party councillor Eddie Fullerton in County Donegal, in 1991.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald paid tribute to the committed republican who was shot dead at his home in Buncrana on May 25th, 1991, by members of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), in alleged collusion with state forces.
Fullerton, who was the first Sinn Féin member to be elected to Donegal County Council in 1979, “embodied what it means to be a proud Irish republican activist and a dedicated united Irelander,” said Ms McDonald.
“Everything he did was about lifting people up and moving forward.”
“He wanted a better future for his community, for his people and for his country,” she added.
“He had a natural empathy for the struggles of ordinary people and he worked day and night to improve their lives. A man with a deep intellect and a sharp political instinct.”
Ms McDonald reiterated the Fullerton family’s call for an independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding his death, “in the name of truth and justice”.
The widely respected councillor was close to topping the polls in Donegal and he was on track to becoming the first Sinn Féin TD from the county when he was killed.
The Fullerton family have repeatedly called for an independent inquiry over the years into evidence of collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and British Crown forces in the murder.
They question how did the killers know where Eddie lived and who provided them with the intelligence. Their actions in carrying out an attack far from the border has also raised questions over the role played by the police in Donegal.
The border was heavily fortified, and no car could cross to and from the Six Counties without going through a checkpoint staffed by either the British Army or RUC police. Yet, the killers were able to pass into Donegal from Derry and back again undeterred.
Once they reached Buncrana, 26km from Derry, their first act was to take a local family hostage. They must have had local knowledge to be directed to that house, from which they took the family’s car and a sledge hammer.
After their murder, a witness saw three men wearing army fatigue-style clothing on the beach near Derry near Culmore. He saw a Ford Sierra arrive, pick up the men and drive towards a checkpoint just two miles away. As a TV cameraman who regularly covered the conflict, he recognised it as an unmarked RUC car. Significantly, the gang’s burned-out getaway car was found beside the beach the following day.
Dismissed by both the RUC and Gardaí, the witness was never been contacted by either force to make a statement. He has provided nine formal statements to a range of investigators, all of which have been consistent, leading the Police Ombudsman in the North to admit he is “a significant witness who had witnessed an indictable and triable offence”.
Former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams described Fullerton as a “colourful and larger than life” person, who was “a champion for the rights of his own constituents”.
He noted that harassment towards Sinn Féin councillors was “routine” when Fullerton sat on the council and that there was an atmosphere of “fear and isolation”. Mr Fullerton was “to the forefront of fighting that,” he said.
Thirty years on from his death, Eddie’s daughter Amanda said she felt optimistic about the future and that her family’s campaign for justice had “overcome boundaries”.
“The timing is good, we’ve persisted,” she said. “We feel quite confident and resilient as a campaign entity to bring this to its conclusion.”
Republicans in Donegal heve recently launched a series of initiatives to commemorate his life and highlight the ongoing campaign by his family for justice and truth.
Maria Doherty of Donegal Sinn Féin said; “Though it is now 30 years since Eddie Fullerton was taken from us, he continues to inspire republicans across Donegal, throughout Ireland and further afield. He was a political giant in Donegal at a time when it was very difficult to be a republican. He was beloved in his hometown of Buncrana and is still remembered fondly to this day.
“Sadly, that would be his downfall however as it was this popularity which made him a target. His assassins sought to demoralise the freedom struggle and silence those who dreamt of a better Ireland.
“Though they succeeded in taking Eddie from us, his legacy lives on as the political movement he helped grow within Donegal County Council is now bigger stronger than ever.”