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Republicans take steps to ease tension in Ballymena

11 May, 2006

North Antrim Sinn Féin assembly member Philip McGuigan has commended the North Antrim 1981 remembrance committee for taking the decision to call off a planned vigil for Francis Hughes in the town of Portglenone on Friday night.

This decision was taken in light of the recent sectarian murder of Michael McIlveen in Ballymena and the obvious intention of Unionists to use the vigil to further heighten tensions in the Borough.

Mr McGuigan said:

"It became obvious in the public domain that some within Unionism wanted to create an issue over the planned commemoration of Francis Hughes. As Irish Republicans this commemoration was intended to a respectful and dignified vigil in honour of a brave man and comrade who died on hunger strike.

"In light of the threat from Unionism and the level of tension in the borough, I think this decision is the right one and shows particular leadership from Republicans in the area. I'm disappointed but not surprised that Unionists and Loyalists were intent on using this vigil to further create community division in Portglenone.

"It worries me further that the same party in Ballymena that calls on people to be calm at this time, is the same party that has publicly backed such protests against the Nationalist and Republican community.

"I would also urge other groupings like the Orange Order to reflect upon this responsible initiative to reduce tensions and act accordingly." ENDS

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