Monday 9 December 2019

Simon Coveney hopes McElduff's resignation will play 'significant part' in restoring power sharing in Northern Ireland

Sinn Fein: Barry McElduff. Photo: PA
Sinn Fein: Barry McElduff. Photo: PA

Ralph Riegel

TANAISTE Simon Coveney has welcomed the decision by Sinn Fein MP Barry McElduff to resign and said he hoped it would play "a significant part" in the fresh drive to restore the power sharing executive in Northern Ireland.

The West Tyrone MP confirmed his resignation with immediate effect in response to the ongoing controversy over his decision to post a video on social media of him standing in a shop with a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head.

The bizarre clip was posted on the 42nd anniversary of the Kingsmill atrocity in which ten Protestant workmen who shot by a Republican gang in Armagh.

Mr McElduff, who insisted the social media posting was coincidental to the anniversary, resigned after the controversy was not quelled by a Sinn Fein proposal to suspend him from party activities on full pay for three months.

Mr McElduff had already apologised for any hurt his social media posting caused.

"It is welcome," Mr Coveney said of the resignation.

"I think the apology that has been repeated again today is welcome.

"What happened has caused a lot of hurt to families linked to the Kingsmill massacre. I have met them - they are very sincere and dignified people who are searching for the truth.

"But I think this was a very hurtful incident.

"I think that the resignation and the repeated apology today will provide, I hope, an opening of a space now that people will take to look towards reconciliation and, I hope, towards providing some positivity politically in Northern Ireland that can allow us to take on some of the decisions in the coming weeks.

"I hope political leaders in Northern Ireland will take on (decisions) to re-establish the Assembly, to look towards managing legacy issues in a responsible way which is what everyone wants to do.

"Most importantly, to reach out to families of victims.

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney TD
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney TD

"This resignation is a step in that direction and I think we should welcome it."

Mr Coveney said it was clear that Sinn Fein's proposed suspension of Mr McElduff was clearly not proportionate to what had happened.

"I think his resignation is the right decision. I think 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.

"The import of that and the significance of it (is great) - I hope the recognition of it provides a political environment that can allow us to move the process forward.

"It is very important for the sake of reconciliation in Northern Ireland - there are no families that are now affected in a negative way by the past than the Kingsmill families.

"There are of course many other families and many other atrocities that need to be addressed but a lot of people, myself included, felt that a suspension for three months did not recognise the import of what had happened and the hurt that was caused.

"His resignation as an MP today is an appropriate response and I hope it will be responded to in a positive way."

Mr Coveney also welcomed remarks by Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster at an economic seminar in Kerry over the need for Belfast and Dublin to work together to minimise the fall-out from Brexit.

"They were welcome (remarks)," Mr Coveney said.

"I need to work with Arlene Foster on Brexit but on many other things too.

DUP leader Arlene Foster. Photo: PA
DUP leader Arlene Foster. Photo: PA

"I welcome the fact that she chose to come to Killarney and outline her views on Brexit. There were a lot of positives in that speech."

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