Friday 16 November 2018

McDonald's judgment questioned as MP quits over Kingsmill video

McElduff admits his tweet impeded the reconciliation process

Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald's judgment has been seriously undermined after MP Barry McElduff finally resigned over the Kingsmill controversy.

The leader-in-waiting had described a three-month suspension of McElduff, with pay, from party activity as "appropriate and proportionate" punishment for posting a crass video online.

However, the sanction failed to quell public outrage and the West Tyrone representative yesterday accepted that remaining on as an MP would "impede any reconciliation process".

Mr McElduff's resignation came hours after the only survivor of the Kingsmill atrocity, Alan Black, had given an emotional radio interview, describing the cold-blooded murder of 10 of his work colleagues. He accused the Sinn Féin MP of "dancing on their graves".

Following the resignation, Mr Black said he was not on a crusade.

"I've done what I've done up to now to protect the memory of the boys and to try to protect their families. But he did the right thing stepping down - eventually."

Michelle O’Neill arrives to speak to the media yesterday. Photo: PA
Michelle O’Neill arrives to speak to the media yesterday. Photo: PA

In a lengthy statement, Mr McElduff insisted he was not making any reference to the murder of 10 Protestants when he recorded a video of himself with a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head. The video was posted on Twitter on the 42nd anniversary of the Kingsmill atrocity.

"There was no intended reference to Kingsmill in my tweet. But I do accept that there are many people who do not believe this to be the case," he said. And in a significant development, he described the killings as "wrong, unjustifiable and sectarian".

Ms McDonald, who is expected to take over as party president on February 10, has yet to comment on the resignation.

However, Sinn Féin's leader in the North, Michelle O'Neill, said the decision came because Mr McElduff "recognises that this controversy and his continuing role in public office is compounding the distress to the victims of Kingsmill".

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the controversy raised "serious questions of judgment in relation to how Mary Lou McDonald handled this".

He continued: "But it is reflective of how Sinn Féin has dealt with its past and the atrocities that were committed by the IRA - not just the Kingsmill massacre, you can take the La Mon bombing, Enniskillen, you can take a range of horrific cases where innocent people were butchered and maimed.

"Yet Sinn Féin has tried to portray all of that as some part of some glorious war and some war that was justified," Mr Martin said.

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said it was "disappointing that Sinn Féin and their leader-in-waiting Mary Lou McDonald did not recognise the huge hurt that was caused by this insensitive action, despite their constant mantra of respect, integrity and equality".

He said anybody who heard Mr Black recount the events of January 5, 1976, in recent days "would recognise the enormous work still to be done to foster reconciliation on our island".

Mr Howlin added: "The Kingsmill massacre was one of the most stomach-churning events of the Troubles. It was an act of ethnic cleansing, where individual workers were singled out and shot because of their religious beliefs."

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said it was clear that Sinn Féin's suspension of Mr McElduff was not proportionate. "I think his resignation is the right decision. The hurt that has been caused by the posting of that video meant that this was going to be a very divisive issue between two communities in Northern Ireland and, most importantly, I think there is a recognition in this resignation of the hurt that was caused to families in particular," he said.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood also said that Mr McElduff had done "the right thing by resigning".

Irish Independent

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