Gun salute at hunger strike commemoration

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Members of the family of Mickey Devine took part in an unveiling for his 40th anniversary last weekend. Irish National Liberation Army Volunteers fired a volley of ten shots in salute to their comrade and the other nine hunger strikers who died in 1981.

Mr Devine’s son, ex-wife and grandchildren unveiled the new board to accompany the new mural in Fern Park in Galliagh, County Derry on Friday, 20 August.

The unveiling was attended by family, friends and comrades as well as members of the wider community.

Traditional commemorative gun salutes have continued at INLA events since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement was signed. One took place earlier this summer on the 40th anniversary of the death of INLA hunger striker Patsy O’Hara, while another took place last week at the funeral of another Volunteer, James McWillians.

However, unionists criticised the PSNI’s failure to intervene on this occasion. UUP councillor Ryan McCready described the incident as “totally unacceptable in today’s society”.

“Brandishing and discharging firearms in the street is abhorrent and I really do wish we could get beyond this as a society were it is not seen as normal,” Mr McCready said.

The Derry City and Strabane District councillor, who is also a former British Army soldier, said what really upset him was that “people clapped and applauded”.

IRSP Councillor Paul Gallagher said the comments were “a bit rich” from the councillor who had himself carried arms and terrorised the people of the north of Ireland for years.

“He’s supposed to be the most decorated British soldier and he didn’t get that for making cups of tea,” he pointed out.

In response, the PSNI have suggested the bullets fired in the salutes have been blanks, or that the rifles used have been replicas.

It also claimed to have had a “significant” operation in place in Galliagh when the commemoration for Mickey Devine took place and said it was “trying to strike a balance” by not attempting an arrest operation.

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