Statement by TUV leader Jim Allister:
“While the media will doubtless give McGuinness a platform to spout meaningless platitudes in the Warrington Peace Centre today my thoughts will be with those protesting outside.
“The comments of those who suffered as a result of the IRA’s Birmingham Pub Bombings in which 21 innocent people died can more eloquently explain why McGuinness is supremely unsuitable to deliver a “peace lecture”. The following is from a Justice 4 the 21 statement:
“Last year, Justice for the 21 wrote to Martin McGuinness and his Sinn Fein colleague Gerry Adams, appealing to them to help ease the on-going suffering of members of our community by acknowledging our campaign and entering into a dialogue seeking to resolve the suffering of victims of the Birmingham Pub Bombings.
“We received no response.
“In May this year, during a visit to Northern Ireland to meet First Minister, Peter Robinson, Brian and Julie Hambleton again appealed to Sinn Fein to reveal who killed their sister and 20 others in the Birmingham Pub Bombings. This appeal was met with insubstantial rhetoric to the media about a truth commission.
“Announcing this year’s Peace Lecture, Mr Parry said ‘you make peace with your enemies, not with your friends’, but attempts by Justice for the 21 to lobby both Sinn Fein and Mr McGuinness on social media have been met with nothing but silence. Indeed, in the case of the Deputy First Minister, we find the ability to contact him or reply to his comments has recently been removed from Justice for the 21 on social media site Twitter. It appears to us that, unlike Mr Parry, Mr McGuinness is selective in with whom he speaks about peace and reconciliation and it would appear that there is some sort of hierarchy of victims.
“Justice for the 21 believes that genuine peace and reconciliation can only be achieved if ALL affected parties are considered and that ALL involved must be genuine in their desire to seek peace and to ease the suffering of ALL victims.
“Martin McGuinness, along with many of his senior colleagues in Sinn Fein, will be aware of the truth behind the Birmingham Pub Bombings. We’re not naïve, we don’t expect them to immediately supply us with the names of the perpetrators, but is it unreasonable of us to expect Sinn Fein to at least show us common courtesy and engage with a campaign which supports the families of victims of republican terrorism? They could even have just gone through the motions; but instead they have chosen to treat the victims of terrorism from our community with the disdain and contempt of indifference.
“Recent statements made by Gerry Adams, regarding republican activists having a duty and a responsibility to do their best to help victims and families of victims of terrorism, led Brian Hambleton whose sister Maxine was 18 when she was murdered by the IRA, to wonder if the Peace Lecture might be the ideal opportunity to approach Martin McGuinness, simply as all other attempts had failed.
“Brian made a request to the Peace Centre inquiring if it would be possible to attend the lecture, simply in order to give Mr McGuinness the opportunity to fulfil his ‘duty and responsibility’ to Birmingham’s victims of terrorism. Mr Parry replied stating the event was to showcase his foundation and no other purpose, adding that campaigning by any other group or organisation would not only be unwelcome, but would also run counter to the foundation’s ethos. Brian was asked for a personal assurance that if he attended there would be no attempt to use the Peace Lecture for any other purpose, and therefore felt he had no other alternative but to withdraw his request to attend.
“Brian Hambleton is one of many people who have suffered in dignified silence for decades and who are still suffering. They are hard-working, honest people who, due to the nature of the Birmingham Pub Bombings, have been lied to and discarded by the authorities they trusted, and then roundly ignored by all parties. One of the primary aims of Justice for the 21 is to rectify that shameful situation.
“We have to ask, what sort of peace are we building when assurances they won’t raise embarrassing issues like unjustifiable mass murder are demanded from victims of IRA terrorism before they go and hear a former IRA commander, known as the Bogside Butcher, speak? While our victims of terrorism are being ignored and have no peace we feel it is at best insensitive that one of the parties denying them closure should visit one of the scenes of their crimes unhindered to lecture others on peace with no opportunity for the right of reply by their victims.
“Therefore, Justice for the 21 will be outside Warrington Peace Centre on the 18 September 2013, demanding that Martin McGuinness and Sinn Fein address the concerns of the victims of terrorism from our community. Once again, ignored victims of terrorism from our community will be standing on the streets while one of the parties responsible for their misery are inside, enjoying the luxuriant state-funded surroundings. We call on as many of our supporters as possible to attend and show their support for our campaign and in particular Brian and Julie Hambleton who show a level of bravery and tenacity which deserves our full support.
“We are not going to go away, we demand justice for our people.
“We demand Justice for the 21 victims of the Birmingham Pub Bombings.”
“While this event is abhorrent I hope the protest will result in attention being given to the Justice 4 the 21 Campaign and highlight Sinn Fein/IRA’s rank hypocrisy.”