COLUM Eastwood said he stands by his claim that British soldiers were ‘sent to my town to murder’ on Bloody Sunday.
There have been calls for the leader of the SDLP to withdraw comments made in the House of Commons last week ahead of the 50th anniversary of the shooting deaths of 14 civil rights marchers in Derry. He expressed a similar sentiment in a subsequent radio interview.
The DUP yesterday joined a group called the Northern Ireland Veterans Movement (NIVM) to criticize MP Foyle’s claim.
In a statement released on behalf of the DUP’s ‘Armed Forces and Veterans’ Champions, a group of seven councilors and party members, the remarks by Foyle’s MP were described as ‘beyond disgraceful’.
“As the leader of the SDLP knows, the military has been deployed on the streets of Northern Ireland to protect the civilian population of this country from a sectarian and indiscriminate terrorist campaign led by the Republicans,” the statement said.
The DUP group said ‘Mr Eastwood’s attempt to rewrite history would make even Sinn Féin blush’.
The statement came after the NIVM wrote to Mr Eastwood saying ‘no soldier has come out with the intent to kill anyone’.
“They were there to stop the real murderers from killing each other,” the letter reads.
The letter falsely claimed that Private F, who was charged with the murders of Jim Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murder of four others on Bloody Sunday, had been “acquitted”.
The former paratrooper’s trial was halted last July after a Crown review of the case concluded there was no reasonable prospect of conviction. The review came after the trial of two soldiers charged with the 1972 murder of IRA official Joe McCann collapsed weeks earlier.
“The truth is not about you, you just spewed hate to maintain your voting base,” the veterans’ group said, while also referring to Mr Eastwood carrying the coffin of a friend of school and former INLA man Seamus ‘Chang’ Coyle in 2012. .
However, the SDLP last night was unrepentant, saying those killed were ‘innocent civil rights protesters who posed no threat to anyone’.
“I think it is deeply regrettable that instead of reflecting on the actions of the soldiers who ransacked Derry that day, committing ‘unwarranted and unjustifiable’ actions in the words of former Prime Minister David Cameron, that there are still individuals determined to add to the pain of the Bloody Sunday families on such a poignant anniversary,” he said.
“I have supported the Bloody Sunday families all my life and I support them in the House of Commons.”