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McDonald under fire over support for 'Nazi collaborator'

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Mary Lou McDonald interview sparked calls for Sinn Féin to ‘wake-up’. Pic Steve Humphreys

Mary Lou McDonald interview sparked calls for Sinn Féin to ‘wake-up’. Pic Steve Humphreys

Mary Lou McDonald interview sparked calls for Sinn Féin to ‘wake-up’. Pic Steve Humphreys

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has come under fire for her support of a former IRA chief of staff who collaborated with the Nazis during World War II.

In an interview with the 'Sunday Independent', Ms McDonald insisted Sean Russell was a "militarist" but not a "Nazi collaborator", despite his well-publicised links to the Third Reich during the Holocaust.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said Ms McDonald should condemn rather than commemorate someone with links to Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime.

"Nazism was the greatest evil of all time which saw millions killed during the Holocaust, but in Sinn Féin folklore and Mary Lou re-articulates this idea of Britain's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity which is a throw back to World War I," Mr Martin said.

"The idea someone was working with the Nazis to undermine Britain when Europe was in great peril and he should be commemorated is something that Sinn Féin need a wake-up call on," he added.

Mr Martin said what Mr Russell did was "wrong" and added that "collaborating with the Nazis should not be condoned in any way".

In 2003, Ms McDonald spoke at a commemoration for Mr Russell, who died on a German submarine while travelling to Nazi Germany to seek support for the IRA.

Yesterday, Ms McDonald said Mr Russell's involvement with the Nazis was "misguided" but insisted she did not regret speaking at his commemoration. Mr Martin was also critical of Ms McDonald's claim that the IRA's terrorism campaign, which resulted in thousands of deaths, was justified.

He said the Sinn Féin leader has a "moral ambivalence" to the atrocities carried out by the Provisional IRA.

"Mary Lou seems unable to say certain acts carried out by the IRA were wrong and shouldn't have been carried out and that's hugely problematic and there is a huge moral question there," he said.

"It was a 30-year war and it wasn't justified by any means and it's hard to comprehend why Mary Lou won't say they were wrong," he added.

Ms McDonald said the IRA's war of terror was "utterly inevitable" and "justified".

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"I wish it hadn't happened. But it was a justified campaign," she said. "It was inevitable; it was utterly inevitable and anybody with even a passing sense of Irish history could have predicted it surely as night followed day."

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said Ms McDonald's "robust defence" of the Provisional IRA's "campaign of death and destruction is chilling".

"(A) recent PSNI security assessment accepted by gardaí clearly shows cause for concern that sinister elements are closely wedded to SF/IRA," Mr Flanagan said.

"While the interview clearly attempted to justify the campaign of violence, it raises issues such as the huge sums of money accruing to (the) Republican movement from extortion, racketeering, fuel smuggling, counterfeiting, contraband and environmental crime particularly in Border areas," he added.

Mr Flanagan said it is a "stark fact" that republican paramilitaries continue to operate on this island over 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement was signed.

"Many see membership of paramilitary organisations as a means by which sinister coercive control is exercised over communities. This is exemplified in reprehensible physical attacks as punishment and as a deterrent," he said.

"The Sinn Féin leader passed up on a real opportunity to address the continuation of paramilitarism 22 years after the Good Friday Agreement, which is not compatible with democratic standards and remains a legacy of the Troubles," he added.

Mr Flanagan said the Fresh Start Agreement sets out a "clear pathway" for finally bringing to an end the influence of terrorists in Northern Ireland.


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