Eastwood defends funeral decision

Published Friday, 20 April 2012
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SDLP MLA for Foyle Colum Eastwood has defended his decision to carry the coffin of a friend at a paramilitary style funeral in Londonderry.

Eastwood defends funeral decision
SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood carries the coffin of Séamus Coyle in Derry. (© Pacemaker)

Mr Eastwood, who is former Mayor of Derry, said he was acting in a personal capacity when he carried the coffin of Republican Séamus Coyle at his funeral in the City Cemetery on Tuesday.

Mr Coyle, who died last weekend, had been a member of both the Official IRA and the INLA.

The coffin was flanked by an IRSP colour party dressed in paramilitary uniform.

Mr Eastwood, who was elected to Stormont last year, carried the coffin shortly after a masked member of the Real IRA fired up to a dozen shots.

The MLA said the shots were fired before he arrived.

"I went to a friend's funeral to mark his death - to be with his family and friends.

"I think that's something that people in this city and country understand very well."

I learnt at a very early age not to allow other people to dictate how I behave.

SDLP MLA for Foyle Colum Eastwood

Mr Eastwood said he and Mr Coyle were "very close," but had differing political points of view which they used to discuss.

He said that while his friend had a past, he was engaged in the peace process.

"I carried his coffin like I would for any other friend.

"How other people behave is up to them."

"I would do it again," he said, before adding that he didn't attend the funeral to make a political point.

Mr Eastwood said he didn't want to see any guns on the streets of Derry.

The SDLP have so far declined to comment.

But North Antrim DUP MP Ian Paisley Jnr described the politician's actions as "crassly stupid."

He said he would have a lot of questions to answer.

"I think a lot of people will be asking themselves and asking this particular MLA 'What on earth did you think you were doing at such a display and participating and associating yourself with that display?'"

Next week, Mr Eastwood will become a member of the Standards and Privileges Committee after serving as a member on the Justice Committee,

The move is part of a reshuffle of the party's assembly team, which was announced on Thursday.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
Seán in Newcastle wrote (1,009 days ago):
Realist, that was brilliant! Took the words out of my mouth! And good man Jonny, I'll agree with you to an extent as well, as long as that means that anyone marching under an LVF or UVF flag at an Orange or Unionist parade should also be imprisoned as for inciting terrorism?? Or no, that would mean equal treatment wouldn't it?? I'll not fool myself!
Realist in England wrote (1,011 days ago):
OldSod - whilst I don't think we would agree politically, I have generally found your posts to be reasoned and fair. I was surprised at your 'no comparison' comment as I thought you would at least understand the republican viewpoint even if you did not share it. I, for one, think that it is pretty pointless arguing over terms like "terrorist", "soldier", "mercenary", "murderer", etc. To me, they are all much the same. With the exception of people acting in self-defence or immediate defence of others, I simply cannot condone killing others - be it for a political cause, a religion, a salary or anything else. Victims and their families suffer the same no matter who carried out an act of violence, and no matter what cause they were serving at the time. Nevertheless, I feel that no-one really tries to articulate the republican point of view on here and I am more than happy to play Devil's Advocate and argue your point. You say that you would not equate the British Army with people you term terrorists (presumably people like the IRA). There is little point stating, even though it is true, that republicans would view the legitimacy issue the other way round to you. What I will do is ask rhetorically what would have happened if Ireland had been given independence/Home Rule back at the start of the last century and the UVF carried out its threat that "Ulster will fight". In that situation, Unionists would be fighting against the legal forces of the state. The mutany at the Curragh had set a precident for them disobeying their government. Clearly many unionists were prepared to fight against independence. If they did so, they would have been legally termed as terrorists simply because they were fighting against being forced into a state to which they did not want to belong. In many cases who is termed a terrorist has little to do with what they do - just look at how many civilians are killed/injured/tortured/handed over to evil regimes all around the world, not least by the US/British. It is mainly just an accident of history. I would like to see emotive terms like "terrorist" used less over there as they imply a lack of mutual respect and understanding.
Ryan in Belfast wrote (1,012 days ago):
The guy went to a funeral? whats wrong with that.
LIAM in COLERAINE wrote (1,012 days ago):
Realist in England wrote (1,012 days ago):
Lorna, I assume from previous experience that an earlier post I made will become visible on Monday and that partially addresses what you have to say. However, extra points should be made here. For one thing, Eastwood claims not to have been present when shots were fired. Also, they were not fired over the grave but over the coffin somewhere else (there are photos online; it wasn't at a graveyard). You often post stuff on here that shows a general ignorance of the topic at hand. You further claim that operating 'out of the shadows' is worse than operating in the open. That is debatable. The Americans and British in Iraq and Afghanistan in the recent past have acted in the open, but still committed some horrendous actions. Guerrilla warfare is a necessary tactic employed by groups who do not have the numbers or firepower to fight by other means. The French Resistance, for example, used the same tactics against the Nazis. I assume you don't object to their actions as you, no doubt, consider them to have been brave British allies in WWII. You may have valid reasons to condemn republican actions (they certainly did a lot of bad stuff including terrible war crimes like Kingsmill), and you are free to object to their overall objective (a unified Irish Republic), but their modus operandi implies nothing but pragmatism. As for accounting for their actions, if you could bring yourself to read any book on the history of republicanism, you would see that many republicans were killed by their own side for alleged treachery of some sort. On top of that, the Provos stood down their Fermanagh unit (or whatever they called it) after the Enniskillen bombing. I forget the book now, but someone published a copy of "the Green Book" as an appendix (Provo code of conduct thing). From what I remember of it (I read it almost 20 years ago), it contained many things for which punishments would be applied. To say that they were not accountable for their actions is therefore incorrect. You view all their actions as crimes, but they were obviously not going to be held accountable for most of those by their own side. They were, nevertheless, accountable for doing things their side considered illegal or wrong in some way. Looking at the statistics, British soldiers accused of murder in Ireland almost invariably got off or (Lee Clegg springs to mind here) were actually accepted back into the army after release from prison and given backpay and promotions. Republicans would argue that it is the British who are not held accountable for their actions, at least in Ireland. Instead of trying to say that the British army were the 'goodies' fighting the 'baddies' in the IRA/INLA or whoever else, it would be better if you could just try to accept the futility of war and the suffering it brings to all sides that are involved. If republicans can do the same in reverse, then maybe Ireland can have a peaceful and prosperous future. Personally, I view all war as wrong and believe Eastwood and the SDLP generally share that view. Whomsoever an individual chooses to befriend is a purely personal matter. If you stopped depersonalising republicans, you might realise that they could be genuinely nice people. That, I would guess, is why Eastwood was friends with Coyle as opposed to anything political.
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