Britain’s ‘days in Ireland are numbered’, Sinn Féin MEP says
DUP and Alliance accuse Martina Anderson of revisionism and ‘hyperbolic rhetoric’
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson she had a message for Boris Johnson: “You will not be closing our roads. You will not be blocking our bridges.” Photograph; Dara Mac Dónaill
The Sinn Féin Northern Ireland MEP Martina Anderson has been accused by the DUP and Alliance of engaging in “blatant revisionism” and “offensive and hyperbolic rhetoric” after she spoke at a hunger strikes commemoration in Strabane, Co Tyrone.
Ms Anderson, in paying tribute to the 10 republicans who died on hunger strike at the Maze prison in Northern Ireland in 1981 and to the two IRA members, Frank Stagg and Michael Gaughan, who died on hunger strike in English prisons in 1974, said Britain’s “days in Ireland are numbered”.
“All parties need to make it crystal clear that the Irish Government and the EU need to stick to their position – that the withdrawal agreement is the only show in town and as part of that a backstop is essential,” she said.
Ms Anderson, who was imprisoned in England in the mid-1980s on IRA bombing charges, said in her speech in Strabane on Sunday that she had a message for the new British prime minister Boris Johnson: “You will not be closing our roads. You will not be blocking our bridges.
“You will not be reinforcing partition by further dividing Down from Louth; Armagh from Monaghan; Fermanagh from Cavan; Derry and Tyrone from Donegal. You will not divide the families of Strabane and Lifford from each other.
“When you say you don’t want a hard border, we don’t believe you. Why don’t we believe you? Because you’ve lied your way through every land and to every people you’ve occupied and oppressed.
“And you can lie all you want but we know the truth, and the truth is that your days in Ireland are numbered.
“As the prisoners, as the blanket men, as the protesting women, as the hunger strikers proclaimed in the face of all that pointless British brutality above which they rose with such dignity: Tiocfaidh ár lá!”
The DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said Sinn Féin was sending a mixed message to the next generation. “From one side of their mouth they say ‘bombers in 2019 are bad’ but at the same time speak from the other side to say ‘bombers in 1972 were good’,” he said on Monday.
Sinn Féin’s Sunday afternoon eulogies of people who believed in, and in some cases were convicted of, terrorism stands in stark contrast to the dignity of innocent victims who lost loved ones as a result of bombs and bullets, he added.
“Republicans can’t erect posters demanding ‘respect’ and then spend their weekends disrespecting innocent victims who still grieve their murdered colleagues, friends and family,” he said.
“There was never an excuse for violence and the DUP will not allow the brave and professional actions of our security forces to be used as the vehicle for blatant revisionism by republicans,” added Mr Dodds.
DUP MEP Diane Dodds said the British government had given an unconditional commitment to avoiding new physical infrastructure – even under a no-deal Brexit. “Sinn Féin’s bombast about closing border roads and bridges would be best directed to the Irish Government and Brussels who now wield the greatest threat of a hard border,” she said.
“There is room for a sensible deal. It will require less megaphone diplomacy and more genuine engagement,” said Ms Dodds.
Alliance assembly member John Blair described Ms Anderson’s comments as “offensive and hyperbolic rhetoric” which would “do nothing but divide our society further”.
“For anyone in our society who identifies as British and who is told by Sinn Féin they will be welcome in a united Ireland, this speech will be seen as nothing but offensive and hyperbolic rhetoric. For others, they will see this as inflammatory language which will not help the talks to restore the Assembly,” he said.
“People have a right to remember their dead respectfully but this was not that. This will have done nothing to move our community forward or heal the hurt felt by so many across all sections of our society,” he added.