Troubles victims group criticises McDonald’s inclusion at women’s rights rally

Innocent Victims United questions Sinn Féin leader’s invitation to NWCI event

A group representing mostly IRA victims of the Troubles has criticised the inclusion of Mary Lou McDonald at a planned rally in Dublin next week on women’s equality.

Innocent Victims United (IVU), an umbrella organisation, questioned the Sinn Féin leader’s involvement in the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) event, given the IRA’s “gross human rights violations of women and girls stretching back throughout its history”.

IVU spokesman Kenny Donaldson said Sinn Féin “remains wedded to an ideology which justified the use of violence...[that] included attacks upon women and girls, as well as the imprisonment of females who were indoctrinated by that ideology”.

“Women and young girls were sexually abused, women and girls were tarred and feathered at the behest of kangaroo courts, women and girls were murdered and maimed, and others were left without husbands/partners, fathers, children, siblings, who were murdered by the Provisional IRA,” he said.

Speakers lined up for the rally outside the Dáil on Saturday, March 5th include Ms McDonald, Patricia King of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Senator Eileen Flynn of the National Traveller Women’s Forum, Sara Benson of Women’s Aid and Noeline Blackwell of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.

Other politicians to take to the podium include Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall, former Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger, People Before Profit’s Bríd Smith and Labour’s Ivana Bacik.

Mr Donaldson pointed to recent assertions by both Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne that the IRA army council continues to oversee both the IRA and Sinn Féin.

Sinn Féin has denied that this is the case.

Mr Donaldson recalled women victims of IRA atrocities, including five women in the Enniskillen Remembrance Day bombing in 1987; Nivruti Mahesh Islania, a six-month-old baby shot in the head alongside her RAF operative father in then West Germany in 1989; Yvonne Dunlop, burnt in Ballymena in 1976, and “disappeared” Belfast mother Jean McConville.

“And then there are of course countless cases where members of that movement preyed upon the vulnerability of particularly young men and women and then abused them – this was a policy of sexual terrorism,” the victims campaigner said.

“The National Women’s Council must examine these issues and reflect upon what the presence of Sinn Féin at such a rally signifies for the many victims of the Provisional IRA’s campaign of terror.

“It is not enough to speak about the rights of women and girls in 2022. . . if no cognisance is taken of the gross human rights violations carried out in the past, and which remain live cases with a chilling legacy of pain and damage for those impacted.”

Mr Donaldson said IVU had requested a meeting with the NWCI over the inclusion of Ms McDonald in the rally line-up.

The NWCI said on Friday it had received no such request but would be happy to meet with the organisation, if and when it was in contact.

“The National Women’s Council stands with all women who are victims of violence across the island,” said director Orla O’Connor.

“NWCI has long campaigned to highlight the particular vulnerabilities of women in armed conflict, and a core part of our work is the All-island Women’s Forum, a forum which campaigns to ensure women’s voices are at the centre of peace building and in ensuring reconciliation remains central to our future.

“We have always and will always work with politicians of all parties and none to ensure women’s equality.”

Sinn Féin was contacted for a response but did not immediately reply.