THE Grand Secretary of the Order of Orange defended the decision to attend an art exhibition in Belfast opened by convicted killer Michael Stone.
Mervyn Gibson was among the public figures pictured at the event last month.
Stone, who was convicted of killing six people during the unrest, opened the exhibit – which included a number of his paintings – on a temporary unattended exit from Maghaberry Prison.
‘Milestones 2018’, exhibiting works by ‘East Belfast artists Michael and Karan Stone’, opened on July 9 at the Reach Project on Newtownards Road.
Other attendees included former DUP assembly member Sammy Douglas and DUP adviser George Dorrian.
Mr. Gibson said he went there as “a local minister and also a community activist involved in peacebuilding for many years.”
He told BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback show that he supported the Order of Orange’s decision not to meet Sinn Féin and that there was “no inconsistency for me, as individual, to go to such an exhibition “.
“Over the years, I have met many senior Sinn Féin officials who were terrorists, and I do so in the interest of progress and peace building.”
The DUP also declared that “Councilor Dorrian, like all representatives of the DUP, condemns all acts of terrorism, including the evil acts committed by Michael Stone”.
Roddy Hackett, whose 37-year-old brother Dermot was murdered by Stone in Co Tyrone in 1987, said his family should have been told he was on bail.
“I would hate to think that part of my immediate family walked up the street in Belfast and saw him walking towards them,” he said.
“I think it would be a terrible shock to them, especially to Dermot’s family.
“It’s just that they let us know.”
The prison administration said victims must register with a special program before receiving information about a prisoner’s release date or any period of temporary release.
In 1988, Stone made headlines around the world when he murdered mourners Thomas McErlean, John Murray and Kevin Brady in a gun and grenade attack at the Republican funeral in the Milltown cemetery.
The murders came after the murders of Mr Hackett in 1987, Kevin McPolin in Lisburn in 1985 and milkman Patrick Brady in south Belfast in 1984.
He was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the six murders and released on license under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, but was returned to prison after a botched attack on the Parliament Buildings in 2006.
Armed with explosives and other weapons, he attempted to get inside and kill Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams.
In 2013, it was decided that at least 30 years should be served for the Milltown murders.
Money raised from last month’s show was to be donated to Muscular Dystrophy UK.
However, the charity said yesterday that it would not accept the donation because it “was not aware that Mr Stone had exhibited works at the Milestones exhibition.”
Jim Wilson, president of the Reach Project, said Stone “had a past, now he hopes for a different future.”
“I think it was (David) Trimble who said, if you have a past, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a future. If this man is entering a new phase of his life, he should be. authorized to do so. “
He added: “I understand the pain and the pain that Michael may have imposed on other families, but it has also happened on our end.”