Some relatives of those killed in an IRA bomb attack boycotted a memorial service for the atrocity due to the presence of a Sinn Fein mayor at the event, it has been claimed.
Six Protestant pensioners died and 33 other people were injured, including some schoolchildren, when an IRA car bomb exploded in Coleraine on June 12, 1973.
Sean McGlinchey, who is currently a Sinn Fein councillor, was convicted of the attack and spent 18 years in jail.
On Sunday, Mr McGlinchey’s party colleague and newly elected mayor, councillor Brenda Chivers, attended an event in the Co Londonderry town to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the attack.
Last week, Ms Chivers came under fire from DUP MP Gregory Campbell after her party refused to condemn the atrocity.
And one survivor of the bombing has told the News Letter that several relatives chose to avoid the memorial due to the mayor’s attendance.
David Gilmour, who was aged just 10 when he and his parents were caught up in the bomb attack at Railway Road in the town, said: “For some of the relatives, Brenda Chivers’ presence cast a dark cloud over the day and they felt they could not attend.
“It caused a lot of hurt to some people that she was there and made it impossible for some to attend the memorial.”
While Mr Gilmour said nothing would have prevented him paying his respects to the victims, he said he fully understood the decision some relatives made to stay away.
Describing the service as “very solemn and dignified”, Mr Gilmour said he still struggles with his experience of that day almost half a century ago.
He added: “Even after 45 years the emotions are always there, they never go away even after all this time. I can still see and hear the events of that day quite clearly.”
DUP councillor Trevor Clarke said the Sinn Fein mayor’s presence at the memorial left many people “uneasy”.
He told the News Letter: “A number of people were uncomfortable with her presence and felt she shouldn’t have been there.
“Some found it tough and couldn’t understand why she was there. They felt it was inappropriate.
“Some people even stayed away from the memorial because she was there.”
Mr Clarke also accused Sinn Fein of having tried to “deflect” attention away from the bomber, Mr McGlinchy, by seeking to hold a memorial for all victims of the Troubles.
He added: “We debated the motion at council earlier and Sinn Fein wanted it amended to include all victims, not just those killed in this attack.
“We felt they were trying to shift the focus away from the fact that their party colleague had been involved in the bombing.
“We refused to accept the amendment and Sinn Fein abstained from the vote. So it is a bit strange that they subsequently put their mayor forward to attend.
“It seems really contradictory that they would go along and participate in this ceremony without condemning the bombing.”
Speaking after the service, East Londonderry MP Mr Campbell said: “It is very important that the atrocity is remembered and not forgotten.”