A local councillor who said “there was no alternative” to the violence of the Troubles has insulted all the innocent victims of that time, according to the sister of a man murdered by paramilitaries.
Bernie Scullion, whose brother Jim Griffin was killed in 1975 by the UVF, said Sinn Fein councillor Brendan Curran’s words in an interview printed in last week’s Leader were hurtful and wrong.
The Gilford woman, who was just nine years old when her brother (19) was gunned down, said she was disgusted by the local councillor’s views.
Mr Curran, who spent more than seven years in the Maze prison after being convicted of conspiracy to cause an explosion, said he felt there was no alternative but to use violence during Northern Ireland’s Troubles.
He said, “You had to fight back. You had to respond to the state the way the state was responding to you. There was no alternative (to violence) and to me that was evident.
“There needed to be violence - and war is death, there’s no point calling it anything else.”
The Leader was inundated with responses to Mr Curran’s interview, some reasoning with what he said but most expressing complete disagreement and even horror at his views.
Bernie, a mother-of-two, said, “Really? So innocent people had to die and families had to be destroyed to get to where we are? Wow, I must remember that every time I remember the night my brother was shot dead.
“My brother was one of those killed by the Loyalists so I know well that there were innocent people on both sides.
“And I don’t think we should say IRA or UVF. Why don’t we call them what they really are: terrorists plain and simple.
“I read this guy’s words and I think what he has said insults every single innocent person out there from both sides of the community.”
Others called for Mr Curran’s resignation as councillor, saying he should not hold a public position with such views.
One person said, “Where has violence got us? The only difference between now and the Troubles is that we aren’t shooting each other any more. Sectarianism is still rife, it could be argued its worse thanks to ‘ghettoisation’, the economy is still a mess, and we still have to listen to our political ‘leaders’ argue about the same issues as they did in the 60’s and 70’s.”
While Mr Curran said in the original interview that he was not trying to justify the actions of the IRA a Leader reader challenged this.
He said, “If Brendan thinks that violence was needed to bring Northern Ireland to where it is today, then he views the murders the IRA committed of innocent men, women and children as a legitimate and valid cause - he thinks it was justified.”
Fellow councillor Glenn Barr called on Brendan Curran to “apologise to the innocent victims for his terrorist crimes”.
He also asked Mr Curran to reveal any knowledge he has of different Republican atrocities in the Lurgan area in the 1970s, to help heal some of the wounds caused by violence at that time.
Dromore councillor Carol Black said, “I am disgusted with this statement - how can you as a Public Servant actually say that violence is right?
“Many lovely people suffered and their loved ones still suffer everyday - I am disgusted and saddened that this man is a councillor with Banbridge District Council.”
Former Dromore councillor Norah Beare said, “So what’s new with Sinn Fein. If I were you Mr Curran I would think very seriously of the time when you meet the greatest Judge of all. There won’t be any negotiating with Him and all the prayers in the world won’t save your soul.”
Mr Curran said he would not be stepping down from his role with the council, insisting he was elected by people with a full knowledge of his past.
“I am quite happy to sit down and talk to anyone about what I have said and what I feel,” he said. “My position now is no different to my position when I stood for election. I would suggest people re-read the article with a clear mind.”