Ex-Sinn Féin MP McElduff will not be prosecuted over Kingsmill tweet

Ten Protestant workmen were shot dead and another seriously injured in Kingsmill in 1976

Former Sinn Fein MP Barry McElduff quit after posing with a Kingsmill-branded loaf on his head on the anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre. File photograph: Twitter.

Former Sinn Fein MP Barry McElduff quit after posing with a Kingsmill-branded loaf on his head on the anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre. File photograph: Twitter.

 

A former Sinn Féin MP who resigned after posing for a video with a Kingsmill-branded loaf on his head on the anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre will not be prosecuted.

Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said there was insufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of convicting Barry McElduff (52) over the controversial social media post.

The PPS announced it will also not be taking action against Sinn Féin Assembly member and former Stormont finance minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir (58), who shared Mr McElduff’s video on Twitter. The PPS again said there was insufficient evidence.

It is understood the PPS was unable to establish that either man deliberately intended to cause offence — a requirement if a prosecution was to have been successful.

Mr McElduff resigned as West Tyrone MP in January after families of some of the 10 Protestant workmen shot dead by republican paramilitaries in 1976 expressed outrage at the video. He has always maintained that the video was not meant as a reference to the sectarian murders near the south Armagh village of Kingsmill and that he was unaware he had posted it on the 42nd anniversary of the attack.

However, Mr McElduff, who had already been suspended by Sinn Féin for three months when he announced his resignation, acknowledged the post had caused unintentional hurt to the families of the victims.

Former Sinn Fein MP Barry McElduff quit after posing with a Kingsmill-branded loaf on his head on the anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre. File photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Former Sinn Fein MP Barry McElduff quit after posing with a Kingsmill-branded loaf on his head on the anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre. File photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Alan Black, who survived the attack despite being struck by bullets 18 times, did not accept the apology or the explanation by the West Tyrone MP.

“That was planned. He had someone set up to take the video. He was standing alongside the Celebrations chocolates with a loaf of bread of his head. It is just absolutely disgusting what he did and it was absolutely deliberate,” he told The Irish Times in January.

In the video Mr McElduff, who regularly posted to social media, is at one point filmed walking around a shop with a Kingsmill loaf on his head asking where the store kept the bread.

Reconciliation

He said staying in the job would have impeded efforts to forge reconciliation in Northern Ireland. However, Sinn Féin easily retained his seat in May’s byelection, with solicitor Orfhlaith Begley succeeding Mr McElduff.

Mr McElduff was interviewed by detectives in April and questioned over alleged improper use of a public electronic communications network under the Communications Act 2003, and two alleged public order offences under the Public Order (NI) Order 1989.

Mr Ó Muilleoir, who was questioned by police over an alleged breach of the Communications Act 2003, insisted he had not meant any offence by retweeting what at the time he thought was a “wholly apolitical” post.

PPS assistant director Martin Hardy said consideration was given to the evidence and a conclusion was reached that it was insufficient to provide “a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction” against either man for any offence.

“The PPS acknowledges the content of the video posted on the anniversary of the Kingsmill murders caused a great deal of hurt to those directly affected by the atrocity and many others in the wider community,” he said, adding that the PSS had written to the next of kin of the Kingsmill victims and the lone survivor of the attack, Mr Black, to explain the decision.

“Whilst we recognise the outcome is disappointing to those offended by the content and timing of the video, we can offer assurance that these decisions were reached only after the most careful examination of all evidence and information available.” –PA