H Block group slams criticism of Bobby Sands tee-shirts

A REPUBLICAN group in north Antrim has slammed criticism of the sale of Bobby Sands tee-shirts at the Lammas Fair.

Several people hit out at the sale of political items at the Fair saying the event had a proud reputation for attracting all sections of the community and they felt a 'neutral' atmosphere should be maintained.

But in a statement to the Times, the North Antrim 1981 H-Block Committee said: "Was it a day for the whole community in Ballycastle

when Loyalists tried to blow it up a few years ago?"

The statement added: "At the present moment in time, we have Brad Pitt, Antonio Banderas, Jennifer Anniston, and Alec Baldwin to name just a few, along with many other celebrities from across the world heading to the Toronto Film Festival just to see the film about the final six weeks in the life of Bobby Sands.

"On the other hand we have Mervyn Storey and a shocked visitor to the Fair who say they were disgusted at the T-Shirts they saw on sale at a stall on Quay Road.

"Do Mr Storey and the shocked visitor ever attend Nutts Corner Market on a Sunday, where Republicans are constantly having Loyalist memorabilia, including that of loyalist killers, some of whom who tried to explode a car bomb at the Fair not so many years ago, being shoved in their face every week? Would this not be a case of the pot calling the kettle black?

"Bobby Sands and his comrades were in a war situation (even Mr Storey called it the "old war") in the North of Ireland for many years, and without men and women like this I dread to think the situation Republicans would find themselves in today.

"These are iconic figures that Republicans admire for their commitment and courage, and let's not forget some of these men were elected reps both in the Six Counties and the Twenty Six Counties.

"To myself and the wider Republican community here in North Antrim, and lets remind Mr Storey that we are growing rapidly in this area, we will never forget the courage that Bobby and his comrades had, and we will continue to commemorate these brave soldiers for many years to come, just as I'm sure the "nutts" at the corner will with their colleagues.

"The stall at which the t-shirts were on sale was off the main road and highly recognisable with Irish Tri-colours on all sides of it, so why on earth did they go to it in the first place?

"After 27 years, I'm still glad to see everyone is still taking an interest in what happened at that traumatic time," the statement said.