The chairman of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Stephen McCann says he has “no comment to make” in relation to a petition calling for him to be ‘sacked’ from the post he only assumed a month ago.
Mr. McCann sparked anger when he said he would not “go down the road of condemning” the Enniskillen bombing of 1987, which killed 11 people and injured 63.
“People in my community have suffered as well and you can get into this thing of do you condemn this and do you condemn that? We are talking about an incident that happened 30 years ago, albeit still very raw in people’s minds and all the rest,” he told The Impartial Reporter last week.
During the interview he also praised Seamus McElwaine, a former IRA volunteer who was shot dead by the SAS in 1986 as he and Sean Lynch, now a Sinn Fein MLA, tried to ambush an Army patrol near Rosslea.
His comments have incensed members of the community who have now voiced their anger through an online petition calling for him to be removed from the position of Fermanagh and Omagh council chairman.
The petition has amassed over 400 supporters since it was posted online on Saturday.
Former Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP, Tom Elliott has added his support to the petition, sharing it on his Facebook timeline with the words: ‘This is not respect and equality’.
When contacted by the Impartial Reporter on Monday this week Mr. McCann said he was unaware of the petition and added that he would have “no comment to make”.
One of the petition’s supporters wrote on “I’m signing because at the age of 14 I was a victim of the Enniskillen bomb, something I have to live with and never will forget, but I will not standby and watch my children’s future be destroyed by small minded people that still live in the past ,it’s time to move on.”
Another wrote: “This councillor should not be a chairman of any council when he cannot condem (sic) killing innocent people.”
Local politicians have also been weighing in on Mr. McCann’s comments this week.
Ulster Unionist MLA Rosemary Barton said: “These comments from someone who is meant to represent the entire council are disgusting and they reveal a wicked and deeply flawed sense of reality.
“The Poppy Day bombing in Enniskillen, which murdered 11 innocent members of the public and injured more than 60 others, was a crime against humanity. Even Sinn Fein’s newspaper An Phoblacht criticised the attack, calling it a monumental error. For the new Chairman of the Council to now refuse to condemn it, and those who planted the bomb in the knowledge that civilians would die, is disgusting.
“The glorification of the sectarian killer Seamus McElwaine is also particularly disturbing. I grew up in the Newtownbutler area and living so close to the border at the height of the Troubles there was palpable fear among the minority Protestant farmers and those who dared to bravely serve in the security forces. McElwaine was one of the most evil of all the IRA’s hitmen, creeping up and shooting innocent people when they were at their most vulnerable, before then cowardly running away into hiding again.
“McElwaine only lost his life because he and Sean Lynch were themselves preparing to murder soldiers near Rosslea. Stephen McCann needs to realise that individuals such as McElwaine were nothing more than sectarian serial killers. To glorify him now, and to ludicrously claim that McElwaine ‘set the tone for a peaceful resolution’ has left people wondering if McCann is fit to even pretend that he will represent all the people of Fermanagh and Omagh impartially.
“Sinn Fein claim they stand for equality, respect and integrity. But based on Stephen McCann’s comments, those words are meaningless when Sinn Fein use them, in the same way that they were when Gerry Adams came to Enniskillen in 2014 and swore and said equality was a way to break unionists.”
The Impartial Reporter contacted Fermanagh and Omagh District Council in light of the online petition.
A spokesperson for the council said: “In accordance with Local Government legislation and the decisions taken at the Annual General Meeting of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council in 2015, the position of Chair of the Council for 2017/18 belongs to the Sinn Fein party and it is a matter for Sinn Fein to nominate for the position of Chair.”
The DUP’s Keith Elliott voiced similar sentiments.
“This year is a significant year as in November the people of Enniskillen and County Fermanagh will mark 30 years from the Poppy Day bomb atrocity. The scars, emotionally and physically still remain for people within the community. It is disappointing that despite the great progress that has been achieved in Fermanagh and Omagh, our ‘first citizen’ refuses to out rightly condemn the vicious and callous attack on innocent people. 
“His interview has also raised a number of points that need urgent clarification. His support for IRA gunman Seamus McElwaine and other IRA activities cannot go unaddressed. Terrorism no matter what the nature should be unequivocally condemned.  The IRA was a terrorist organisation which caused devastation throughout Northern Ireland. His pledge within the interview to ‘build bridges and move forward’ rings hollow to a lot within the Unionist community given his support for the IRA. It is completely disrespectful to those who lost loved ones at the hands of IRA terrorism. 
“If Cllr McCann is going to continue in this role he must prove that he can act as a representative for us all. His comments do not fit in with Sinn Fein’s mantra of integrity, respect and equality for all in Northern Ireland.”