Mary Lou McDonald forced to defend use of 'tiocfaidh ár lá' slogan
SINN Féín leader Mary Lou McDonald has been forced to defend her use of the phrase 'tiocfaidh ár lá" and to insist that "the IRA has gone away you know".
Ms McDonald closed her speech at the ard fheis where she assumed the leadership of Sinn Féin with the words 'tiocfaidh ár lá', a phrase long associated with the Provisional IRA.
She was challenged on the matter during an interview with Newstalk radio's Pat Kenny this morning.
He said legacy issues have been troublesome for Sinn Féin including allegations about previous leader Gerry Adams's involvement with the IRA, which he has always denied.
Mr Kenny asked Ms McDonald if her use of the slogan highlighted the dilemma she faces between trying to attract new support for the party but also having to "give a nod to the hard men in Belfast."
Ms McDonald replied: "I'm not giving a nod to anybody. I'm very clear who I am and where i'm coming from. It is absolutely clear that the party is under new leadership, a new generation of leaders."
Mr Kenny referenced Mr Adams's infamous phrase in relation to the IRA of "they haven't gone away you know". The presenter said ex-IRA members remain involved with the party and there are "people who had a particular view of the conflict".
Ms McDonald said: "Well let me tell you that the war and the conflict has gone away you know.
"The IRA has gone away you know and Sinn Féin is led now by woman from the city of Dublin who has had no involvement in the conflict, with the IRA or anything else"
She argued that when she said "up the rebels" in her speech "I'm as much making a reference back to the 1920s and indeed beyond as anything else.
"I am an Irish Republican. I am a United Irelander. That's who I am and when I express myself as such I do so with no malice and I do so looking squarely, unapologetically, explicitly to the future."
Mr Kenny said that young supporters of Sinn Féin may have no memory of the Troubles but asked: "Are we supposed to develop amnesia after the terrible things that were done in the name of Irish Republicanism."
Ms McDonald said: "Nobody should have amnesia. My God we can't afford amnesia. We have to remember because the one thing we have to be clear on is we are not going back to the past."
She said her responsibility as Sinn Féin leader is to "ensure that never, ever, again do we go back to those circumstances".