‘Deeply offensive’ to have event revering former IRA leader

‘Deeply offensive’ to have event revering former IRA leader

31 March 2021

A DUP politician said plans by Sinn Fein to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the shooting of IRA commander Colum Marks in Downpatrick are “deeply offensive”.

Marks was shot dead in controversial circumstances in April 1991 when members of an RUC undercover unit opened fire during an attempted mortar attack on security forces in the town.

The 29 year-old was part of two-man IRA team which was trying to murder members of the security forces with a horizontal mortar at St Patrick’s Avenue when they were surprised by police officers.

As Marks fled in the dark into Dunleath Park, he was shot three times by a sergeant from the RUC’s elite Headquarters Mobile Support Unit. He lived long enough to reach the Downe Hospital, but died during emergency surgery.

The Marks family has claimed that the RUC was aware of a planned IRA operation more than eight hours before the shooting and so should have been able to arrest any suspects. The family has previously claiming there was evidence to suggest that a state agent was involved.

Condemning plans to mark the 30th anniversary of the IRA man’s death, Jim Wells MLA has branded the event “deeply offensive” to the victims of terrorism in South Down.

He said Republicans are holding a commemoration on April 10 to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of Colum Marks “whose name is acknowledged on several monuments as an IRA commander”.

Mr Wells said the terrorist organisation had always claimed Marks as one of its top volunteers in South Down and was on “active service when he was shot”.

He continued: “Now a video has been produced in an attempt to justify his terrorist activities and try and portray him as a martyr with no mention of the circumstances surrounding his death.

“MP Chris Hazzard’s support for this commemoration is deeply offensive to the many people in South Down who lost loved ones at the hands of the IRA, but will come as no great shock given the fact that his constituency office is named after two of Colum Marks’ IRA colleagues.”

Mr Wells said that instead of trying to build a better future for all of the people of South Down, the constituency’s MP, “who would have no memory of the activities of Colum Marks and his fellow terrorists,” seemed determined to cause further trauma to those who lost so much at the hands of the IRA.

In response, Mr Hazzard said the Good Friday Agreement enshrined the right of everyone to remember their dead in a dignified and respectful way.

“Colum Marks is held in high regard by many and they will commemorate his death as a result of the shoot-to-kill policy with pride and respect,” the MP said.

“The family of Colum Marks have campaigned for 30 years for the truth around his killing and they, like all those bereaved as a result of the conflict, are entitled to access to the truth about the death of their loved one.”

Mr Hazzard said a full inquest into the killing of Colum Marks should be held without delay so his family can have access to the truth.