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Sinn Fein vote 'insult ' to 11 dead Marines

FORMER Royal Marines say a decision to allow members of Sinn Fein into the Houses of Parliament is like "rubbing salt in the wound" for the families of victims of the Deal bombing.

Jim Strathdee, MBE, says he speaks on behalf of many ex-servicemen who feel disgusted that Dover and Deal's Gwyn Prosser was one of the Members of Parliament who voted to give four Sinn Fein MPs offices at Westminster.

"Where does people's loyalty lie?," he said. "It is an insult to the victims and their families. It is disgusting. It is like rubbing salt in the wound."

Eleven bandsmen died in September 1989 when the IRA bombed the Royal Marines School of Music. Now the ban on members of Sinn Fein using Commons facilities without taking an oath of loyalty to the Queen has been lifted to allow the four access to official offices and allowances of more than £100,000 each.

Mr Strathdee joined the Royal Marines in 1954 and came to Deal in 1979. He was a Regimental Sergeant Major and was awarded the MBE for services in Northern Ireland and Cyprus. He retired from the Marines in 1981.

He added: "I have got nothing against Mr Prosser but it is putting salt into the wound when you represent a constituency full of ex-servicemen. I had just got home from a nightshift when I heard the blast. It shook the whole town. I knew right away it was the barracks."

Town sergeant Tony Higgins, who served as a Royal Marines' physical training instructor for 27 years, was second on the scene of the devastation in North Barracks. "It is a disgusting insult," he said. "I was 50 on the day of the bombing. When I heard the blast I went round and it was just a big cloud of smoke. Sixteen hours later we were still digging and we got the last body out."

Deal and Dover MP Gwyn Prosser said the decision to allow the four members of Sinn Fein into Westminster was in the name of the peace process. "I voted them in, along with 300 others," he said. "We are voting for the continuation of the peace process.

"I was living in the constituency at the time of the bombing so I share the grief and the distress of that terrible tragedy. I completely understand the sensitivityhttp:// Since those terrible days we have been working for a peace process. It depends on bringing members of Sinn Fein back into democratic politics.

"They will not be taking part in debates or voting. Whether we like it or not they are elected members of parliament. In their own countries, they are the equivalent of secretaries of state."

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