Published Friday, 20 April 2012
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