Sinn Féin’s Martina Anderson has claimed at the National Hunger Strike rally in Strabane that the British secretly want a hard border.
But the people of Derry, Tyrone and Donegal will not be divided for the sake of “Britannic jingoism” and “Little Englander attitudes”, she said.
Speaking on Sunday, Ms. Anderson issued “an Irish republican message” to the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, - “a message whose composition began with the Battle of the Bogside which shaped young Patsy O’Hara and Micky Devine”.
“You will not be closing our roads. You will not be blocking our bridges. You will not be reinforcing partition by further dividing Down from Louth, Armagh from Monaghan; Fermanagh from Cavan; Derry and Tyrone from Donegal.You will not divide the families of Strabane and Lifford from each other. When you say you don’t want a hard border, we don’t believe you. ”
Launching a scathing attack on British involvement in countries it has “occupied and oppressed”, Ms Anderson added: “We know the truth, and the truth is that your days in Ireland are numbered. As the prisoners, as the blanket men, as the protesting women, as the hunger strikers proclaimed in the face of all that pointless British brutality above which they rose with such dignity. Tiocfaidh ár lá!” she declared.
Ms. Anderson warned the DUP not to listen to the false promises of a British Government dominated by English ministers accountable to English constituencies.
“I’ve a bit of advice for the DUP. Britain has no friends – it only has interests. It is currently indulging you because you serve Brexiteer interests in the life of this British parliament.
"But, do not get carried away. If circumstances change, if it suits the British government, it will ditch you. You can be sure of that.
"And when that happens, and when you are disabused of how important you are to Boris Johnson and English nationalism, when you decide to come back home, we in the nationalist republican community will be here to work with you,” she said.
She predicted the DUP would suffer the same fate others have suffered when dealing with London.
“Many centuries ago a French cleric coined a phrase and described England as ‘Perfidious Albion’, a country that never keeps its word, a state that you can never trust.
“We know that to be so true - from Britain’s promise to the Irish Parliamentary Party in 1914 to introduce Home Rule, before then partitioning our country, to its reneging on political status in 1976 which led to so many deaths,” she said.
Referring to the IRA and INLA hunger strikes of 1981 she said: “To this day, I am in awe of the families of the hunger strikers – some of whom are with us today. Your loyalty, your endurance, the pain you suffered day and night, and sleepless nights, over sixty-six days, seventy-three days, or, in the case of the Hurson family, young Martin after forty-six days.”
Reacting to Ms. Anderson’s oration DUP MLA Gary Middleton said: “Sinn Féin sends a mixed message to the next generation. From one side of their mouth they say ‘bombers in 2019 are bad’ but at the same time speak from the other side to say ‘bombers in 1972 were good’.
“Sinn Féin’s Sunday afternoon eulogies of people who believed in, and in some cases were convicted of, terrorism stands in stark contrast to the dignity of innocent victims who lost loved ones as a result of bombs and bullets."
He added: “Republicans can’t erect posters demanding ‘respect’ and then spend their weekends disrespecting innocent victims who still grieve their murdered colleagues, friends and family.”
Meanwhile, the build up to the commemoration was marred by an issue those arose between the Irish Republican Bands Association and the Kevin Lynch Memorial Flute Band.
The Dungiven-based KLMFB claimed it had been banned from attending the Sinn Féin Hunger Strike Commemoration and in turn boycotted the event.
The IRBA, in its own statement, claimed the band had breached its protocols and that it had had “no choice but to expel the band”.
East Derry MP Gregory Campbell remarked: “Some interest in Martina going over the top again at the ‘rally’ in Strabane... but what seems to be getting bypassed, or was it a diversionary tactic?, is a reported ‘bitter dispute’ between SF and the Kevin Lynch Band and family.”
Sinn Féin said: “This was an issue between the bands association and the Kevin Lynch band. Sinn Féin worked to attempt to resolve the issue.
“We hold the Lynch family in the highest esteem and we deeply regret the family’s decision.”
Republicans gathered at the hunger strike memorial for the national commemoration in Strabane at the weekend.