South Derry

Following yesterday’s letter in the Irish News, backers of Sinn Fein in South Derry have chimed in with one of their own. Ian Milne, a former prisoner who served 17 years and is now the Chair of Magherafelt District Council, along with Councillor Peter Bateson, who also served two lengthy prison sentences, Sean McGlinchey, convicted for his part in the 1973 Coleraine bombing (and brother to Paul McGlinchey, also an ex-prisoner and former blanketman, who has broken ranks with Sinn Fein), Anne McErlean (formerly Bateson, sister to Peter) and former Republican prisoner Dolores O’Neill-McElhone, who with Anne McErlean, was arrested with the hunger striker Tom McElwee in 1976, want “personal and petty attacks” on Sinn Fein to stop and call for unity: “Disunity only benefits those who wish to keep partition and British rule in the north.”

Not in front of the enemy
Peter Bateson, Dolores O’Neill-McElhone, Sean McGlinchey, Anne McErlean, Ian Milne; Co Derry

There has been much speculation recently in the media in the ongoing debate on policing.
Individuals – some of whom left the republican struggle decades ago – have chosen this moment for personal and petty attacks on the Sinn Fein leadership and strategy.
And they have become darlings of sections of the media traditionally hostile to republicanism.
Some have tried to misrepresent Co Derry republican opinion.
As long-serving Co Derry activists we believe Irish freedom and unity – which we have dedicated most of our lives to – will be delivered through current Sinn Fein strategy.
It requires commitment and determination: there is no quick fix.
The recent coming together of resigned republican activists, so-called dissidents and individual members of the INLA and IRSP offers no further strategy.
The only glue binding these groups together is outright opposition to Sinn Fein strategy and leadership.
Personality is a great motivation rather than politics or principle. These groups and individuals have few views in common.
Republicans all share a history of sectarian and unacceptable policing. That could not go on.
Enormous advances have been made but we need to tackle this issue head on now… and that’s what is happening.
We have no problem with anyone having different views to Sinn Fein’s leaders and most republicans on this island and abroad.
That’s politics.
But the debate should be constructive and honest.
It should not be influenced by threats from any quarter.
We and Sinn Fein are presently facilitating gatherings at which republicans and nationalists can discuss these matters.
But at the end of the process republicans will have to make a collective decision.
Whatever that decision, we must maintain our focus and unity as we move towards our core objective of Irish unity and independence.
Disunity only benefits those who wish to keep partition and British rule in the north.
Peter Bateson, Dolores O’Neill-McElhone, Sean McGlinchey, Anne McErlean, Ian Milne
Co Derry