An IRA commemoration event, supported by Wexford Sinn Féin, was called off last night after being widely deplored.
The event, commemorating Provisional IRA man Edward O’Brien from Gorey, Co Wexford – who blew himself up with his own bomb on a London bus – had been due to begin at 7.30pm yesterday but was cancelled at the request of the family.
A statement from Sinn Féin said: “The online commemoration for Edward O’Brien, which was organised by Edward’s father Miley and supported by Wexford Sinn Féin, was cancelled at the request of the family due to significant online abuse targeting the family in recent days.”
Fionntán Ó Súilleabháin, Sinn Féin councillor for Gorey who teaches at a local gaelscoil, had promoted the commemoration prior to its cancellation.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar yesterday demanded the cancellation of a “deeply offensive” online commemoration event for O’Brien.
Mr Varadkar tackled Wexford Sinn Féin TD Johnny Mythen in the Dáil on the issue.
Mr Varadkar commented as Mr Mythen asked a question about the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine: “It would be remiss of me not to raise my concerns here about the commemoration being organised by Sinn Féin in Wexford, in the Deputy's constituency, in relation to the Edward O'Brien bus bomb.”
“This is a deeply offensive commemoration.”
Edward O’Brien was 21 when his device detonated prematurely on a double-decker bus in London’s theatre district in February 1996.
The explosion wrecked the bus and caused the driver to permanently lose his hearing. Also injured were motorists and passers-by in the vicinity. A fellow Irishman aboard, not connected to O’Brien, suffered a fractured skull.
The Tánaiste said of the planned commemoration: “The family do not support it.”
Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane, who was videoed saying “Up the ‘Ra” in the wake of last year’s General Election breakthrough for Sinn Féin, interrupted: “This is a disgraceful abuse of the House.”
But the Tánaiste responded by suggesting it was an abuse of “our Defence Forces” for the IRA to have appropriated their name in the Irish language for its own paramilitaries.
“Our Defence Forces would be particularly offended that the term Óglaigh na hÉireann is being used in relation to this,” the Tánaiste said.
“I would call on Sinn Féin to disassociate itself from the commemoration, and to call for it to be cancelled.”
Mr Mythen did not speak on the issue and the Tánaiste’s call was ignored, despite his urging Sinn Féin members “to condemn the violent crime which this bus bomb was”.
Wexford Fine Gael TD Paul Kehoe, a former Minister of Defence, said it was “shocking” that “an event commemorating a man seemingly intent on killing innocent people” was promoted by a Sinn Féin councillor.
“The revelation is further evidence of the party’s connections to the IRA, who were responsible for acts of terrorism, bloodshed and violence for decades.
“Online notices describing Edward O’Brien as an ‘óglach,’ or member of ‘Óglaigh na hÉireann’ are most disrespectful to our Defence Forces. The men and women of our Defence Forces, as decent, law-abiding people of Ireland know it, are peacekeepers not bus bombers, and serve our country with great pride and distinction.
“The leadership of Sinn Féin must exercise authority over its councillors and supporters, and the party must as a matter of urgency disassociate itself from this shameful commemoration and admit that what was carried out by Edward O’Brien was a violent crime.”
He added: “An image has also been circulated online of a commemorative plaque with an image of O’Brien beside the Wexford GAA logo, which is totally unacceptable.
“The GAA is an apolitical organisation and its branding should not be used to advance a political agenda, or in this case glorify violence.”