More honesty needed from Sinn Féin on IRA atrocities, says FF chief

Martin welcomes McElduff exit but controversy ‘evidence of poor Sinn Féin judgment’

The Sinn Féin leadership needs to be far more honest about atrocities committed by the IRA during the troubles in the North, according to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

Mr Martin's comments came as he welcomed the news that Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP Barry McElduff resigned his seat.

Mr Martin said that the Sinn Féin leadership's handling of the controversy over Mr McElduff's tweeting of a video of himself with a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head on the 42nd anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre highlighted its insensitivity to the victims of Provisional IRA atrocities.

“I think Barry McElduff took the right decision to resign. He has caused enormous hurt to the families of the Kingsmill victims. It was a vile sectarian act and Máirtín Ó Muilleoir likewise should give a far more fulsome apology and questions remain as to why he retweeted that despicable tweet.”


Sectarian act

Mr Martin said that it was extraordinary that it should take some 42 years since 10 Protestant workers were singled out because of their religion and shot by republicans at Kingsmill in Co Armagh for the Sinn Féin leadership to acknowledge that it was wrong and a sectarian act.

"That is worth reflecting on. And the broader Sinn Féin leadership need to be far more accountable in terms of the atrocities that its movement committed over 30 odd years or more and less of the ambiguity that has coloured their approach to the past and to what happened in Northern Ireland. "

Mr Martin said that Sinn Féin’s decision to suspend Mr McElduff for three months was never going to be sufficient and their failure to handle the controversy decisively and coherently was now reflected in the fact that Mr McElduff was forced to eventually resign.

He said there were serious questions about the judgment of Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald when she said the three-month suspension was sufficient penalty for Mr McElduff over the tweet which completely underestimated the hurt that it caused to the Kingsmill families.

"It's reflective of how Sinn Féin has dealt with the atrocities that were committed by the IRA, not just the Kingsmill massacre. You can take the Le Mon bombing, Enniskillen, a whole range of horrific cases where innocent people were butchered and maimed by the IRA.

“And yet Sinn Féin have tried to portray all of that as some part of some glorious war that was justified and, in my view, 30 years of mayhem and more was not justified in any shape or form and there has been an attempt by the Sinn Féin leadership to change the history.

“They have tried to change the narrative of what happened in recent times and to create a different perception of it for a younger generation and that is why I think we need more honesty from the Sinn Féin leadership in terms of these atrocities committed by the Provisional IRA.”

Asked if he believed that Mr McElduff's resignation brought that particular controversy to an end, Mr Martin said that he believed it did advance the matter but it was imperative that the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive be restored as quickly as possible.

Huge gap

He said he had met with DUP leader Arlene Foster in Killarney at the weekend and he believed she was genuine in her desire to have the Executive and Assembly restored. And he believed this was possible as he didn't think there was a huge gap between the DUP and Sinn Féin.

“I don’t believe there a huge amount at all between the two sides and given the gravity of Brexit, it’s inexcusable and unacceptable that those institutions are not restored to facilitate the anti-Brexit voice in Northern Ireland which is currently being denied a hearing without the Assembly.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times