Sinn Féin found McElduff’s ‘stupid’ actions impossible to defend
As Kingsmill video controversy intensified ‘no one was jumping to his defence’
Barry McElduff, who has resigned as Sinn Féin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Sinn Féin figures said they found it impossible to defend former party MP Barry McElduff, who resigned his Westminster seat on Monday over a controversial social media video that was widely interpreted to reference the Kingsmill massacre.
The video featured Mr McElduff in a shop joking with a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head and was posted on the 42nd anniversary of the killing of 10 Protestant workmen in an IRA shooting.
The controversy sparked outrage and led to calls for his resignation, as well as criticism of Sinn Féin for deciding to suspend him for only three months.
In a resignation statement, Mr McElduff apologised for the “deep and unnecessary hurt” caused by the video, which he insisted was not intentional, and said that his staying on would “compound that sense of hurt and impede any reconciliation process”.
Sinn Féin sources maintain Mr McElduff made his own decision to resign but acknowledged it was impossible to defend his “stupid” actions as the controversy intensified.
“If I had been sent out to defend it, I would have found it very difficult,” said one TD.
One party source said that it was noticeable that Sinn Féin spokespeople did not seek to defend Mr McElduff in weekend media appearances. “No one was jumping to his defence.”
Mr McElduff informed Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Féin’s Northern leader, of his decision on Sunday. However, one source said he may have consulted with others in the party before making the final call.
The resignation will result in a byelection in the West Tyrone constituency, which Sinn Féin is expected to easily win.
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said he hoped the development would lead to some “positivity politically in Northern Ireland” which could allow some decisions on restoring devolution to be made in the coming weeks.