DUP MP Gregory Campbell has said the new Sinn Fein mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens looks set to “fail her first credibility test” by refusing to condemn an IRA bomb attack in Coleraine.
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.
His party colleague and newly elected mayor, councillor Brenda Chivers, will be present at a event to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the atrocity on Sunday.
After officially taking up her new role at the council’s AGM on Monday, Ms Chivers said she wanted to be a mayor “for all citizens”.
Earlier this week, East Londonderry MP Mr Campbell challenged Ms Chivers to “make good on her pledge” by denouncing the bombing.
Describing the upcoming memorial as an “opportunity” for the new mayor, Mr Campbell told the News Letter: “It is not enough for her to go along to the event. As mayor she must make her position clear ahead of the memorial service, stand in solidarity with everyone else who will be attending and condemn without equivocation the atrocity that her colleague carried out.”
In response to Mr Campbell’s remarks, Sinn Fein’s head office has accused the DUP MP of attempting to turn the memorial event into a “political football”.
It added that SF had “repeatedly expressed its deep regret” for the bombing and said Ms Chivers “will pay her respects” by attending Sunday’s remembrance service.
But Mr Campbell felt SF’s refusal to denounce the bombing “undermined” Ms Chivers attendance at the memorial.
“If this is Sinn Fein’s final word on this matter and they cannot condemn the atrocity, then it reinforces my point about Brenda Chivers’ credibility as a self-proclaimed mayor for all the community,” he added.
“Earlier this week I said this commemoration service was the first real credibility test for the new mayor. Well, judging by these comments from her party, it looks as though she is on course to fail that test.
“It is deeply unfortunate, but hopefully everyone who attends the service will do so with dignity and decorum and set their very petty stance on this to one side.”
A service of remembrance will be held in the Diamond, Coleraine on Sunday, starting at 2pm.