Sinn Fein opponents using Manchester bomb to score cheap points, says Kearney
Sinn Fein chairman, Declan Kearney, last night moved to deflect criticism of his party following the Manchester atrocity which left 22 people dead.
The party's Stormont leader, Michelle O'Neill has been accused of hypocrisy for signing a book of condolence for the Manchester victims, given that the IRA bombed the city twice in the 1990s and killed civilians in its own campaign.
Addressing the criticism that Sinn Fein has faced, Mr Kearney said that while "we might wish it could be otherwise", the past could not be "undone or disowned by republicans".
While "no distinction" could be made between "the carnage and suffering which results from all wars", he said that those attempting "to score cheap political points" against his party on the back of the Manchester attack "disgrace and diminish themselves".
Writing in An Phoblacht, Mr Kearney described last week's bombing targeting young people leaving the Ariana Grande concert in the city as "mass murder".
He said: "Mass murders of innocent children in Europe are mirrored by similar atrocities taking place continually in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Many people will draw inevitable parallels between the recent attack upon children in Manchester and the indiscriminate killing of children in Gaza."
Mr Kearney said that the Manchester massacre had been "rightly condemned from across the political spectrum". But "perversely some in Ireland have tried to cynically exploit this tragedy to mount gratuitous political attacks against Sinn Fein", he added. "In the Irish context no right-thinking republican has ever glamorised war, or indeed the actions of the IRA, in this or any previous generation.
"To assert that a political context forced the use of armed struggle as a last resort, cannot disguise the massive human suffering caused by IRA actions," he said.
"Whilst we might wish it could be otherwise, the past cannot now be undone or disowned by republicans. Myself, Gerry Adams and the late Martin McGuinness have said so in specifically addressing tragic events, such as the Shankill bomb, Kingsmill, Tullyvallen or Darkley."
Mr Kearney accused "some within political unionism and the British state" of deliberately seeking to "weaponise the past and to turn it into a new battlefield".
The Sinn Fein chairman said: "The Manchester bombing is a brutal reminder that a better, safer, world of solidarity must not only be an aspiration, but also a concrete political and social objective."