Unionist anger as McDonald commemorates IRA bomber
Unionists have reacted angrily to Mary Lou McDonald's attendance at a ceremony commemorating an IRA bomber, saying it shows nothing will change in Sinn Féin when she assumes leadership of the party.
The Sinn Féin president-elect was present at a wreath-laying ceremony in Castlewellan, Co Down, for IRA member Peter McNulty, who died when the device he was planting at the town's police station exploded prematurely.
She attended the event on Friday with two local Sinn Féin MPs.
Jim Allister, leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice, said: "Here we have Mary Lou McDonald and two Sinn Féin MPs glorifying a terrorist bomber who sought to bring death and destruction to Castlewellan.
"Just over a week on from all the cant about respect, following the Kingsmill video PR disaster, usual service has been resumed with the glorification of terrorism still a top priority."
Mr Allister said those who predicted that Ms McDonald's leadership would mark a break with the past had been quickly proved wrong.
"One of her first acts as Sinn Féin president-elect is standing in public to honour and venerate a terrorist," he said.
"The narrative we were spun was one of new beginnings and fresh faces and fresh starts. We can now see the sincerity of that.
"Mary Lou McDonald is entirely happy to commemorate someone who was part of a terrorist unit who met his end at his own hands."
- Read more: 'I feel an enormous sense of pride' - Mary Lou McDonald is the sole candidate in race for Sinn Féin party president
Mr Allister called on the DUP to carefully consider the attendance at the event by the Sinn Féin leader-in-waiting.
"Those who are trying to placate Sinn Féin at the current talks in Stormont urgently need to pay attention. Nothing has or will change in that party," he added.
Mr McNulty was the first IRA man to be killed in Co Down during the Troubles. A farmer from Burrenreagh, near Castlewellan, he died when the 15lb device he was planting exploded prematurely near the police station's perimeter gate.
A second IRA man was badly injured in the blast.
Around 2,000 people attended McNulty's funeral in Bryansford.
Last year, Sinn Féin's Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill angered unionists when she was the main speaker at a 25th anniversary commemoration for four IRA men in her home village of Clonoe, Co Tyrone.