Ross Hussey, Ulster Unionist MLA for West Tyrone, has challenged Sinn Fein on claims that they have made surrounding the proposed IRA commemoration parade in Castlederg.
Mr Hussey said;
“Sinn Fein has been using a claim that Castlederg is "an overwhelmingly nationalist town" in its' attempts to defend their proposed glorification of terror parade on 11th August. By doing so their representatives are attempting to propagate the myth that the town is a suitable venue for a parade that celebrates terrorism.
“Castlederg is most certainly not an overwhelming nationalist town or area. And even if it was so, this would be no justification whatsoever for Sinn Fein to hold a parade commemorating terrorists and glorifying terrorism.
“Sinn Fein should not assume that the Catholic and nationalist people of Castlederg are happy to see the IRA parade take place on the streets of the town. I am most definitely aware of objections that have emanated from local Catholic people.
“We are not surprised at this. This issue is not about 'Orange and Green'. This is about 'Right and Wrong'.
“The IRA bombing campaign destroyed Catholic businesses and homes as well as those belonging to Protestants. On many occasions the IRA held a Catholic household hostage and ordered the man of the house to drive a primed bomb to a commercial target in Castlederg town centre. The IRA may have concentrated on killing Protestants, but it victimised the whole community in many other ways.
“The closest figure in the census data that one might equate with Sinn Fein`s assertion is that the Derg Ward is 62.7% Roman Catholic by religious denomination. This is the figure repeatedly cited by Sinn Fein representatives when they are justifying bringing the Provo parade to the town next month.
“There are two issues with this:
“First of all, the Derg Ward is not co-terminus with the town boundary of Castlederg town. The Derg Ward does not include the housing developments within the town boundary that have been developed largely within the last twenty years, and which are predominantly occupied by people of the Protestant faith. Housing developments on and along the Castlegore and Drumquin Roads are not included in the Derg Ward figures. However both are undoubtedly part of the town. Do Sinn Fein wish to exclude these people from Castlederg? It seems so.
“Secondly, statistics relating to religious denomination do not always automatically reflect political allegiance or national identity.
“In actual fact, if Sinn Fein examines the Census data relating to national identity, statistics for the Derg Ward it erroneously refers to as being the town of Castlederg reveal that just 35.18% of respondents consider themselves to be 'Irish'. One in Three.
“If the DergWard is combined with its' natural hinterlands in the adjoining Glenderg and Clare wards - bringing in Killeter, Garvetagh, Killen, Spamount and outlying country areas, the Roman Catholic population comprises 51% of the total. The 'Irish' only national identity is around one third.
“And if the five wards that together make up the Derg District Electoral Area are combined, just 33% of the populace described themselves as "Irish" when it came to the census question relating to national identity. In this area the population is 55% Roman Catholic by religious denomination.
“In the 2011 local government elections, Unionist candidates in the Derg District Electoral Area received 47.3% of first preference votes.
“The truth of the matter is the IRA commemoration parade is hurtful, it is divisive and it will only do harm to fragile relationships within Castlederg.
“Sinn Fein need to show some leadership, and withdraw the event now.”