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Sinn Fein's Finucane palms off questions on IRA violence

By Victoria Leonard

Sinn Fein's North Belfast general election candidate John Finucane has stopped short of condemning the IRA at a campaign event.

Mr Finucane, whose solicitor father Pat was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries in February 1989, is going head to head with DUP candidate Nigel Dodds in the race for Westminster.

Sinn Fein is hoping that Mr Finucane's candidacy will end decades of unionist domination in the constituency.

Yesterday, ahead of a Sinn Fein 'Meet your candidate' public event at the Lansdowne Hotel, the Belfast Telegraph asked Mr Finucane directly if he condemned the IRA.

While Mr Finucane acknowledged that "a lot of people in this society have been caused hurt", he did not outrightly condemn the terrorist group.

He stated: "I think my unique personal and professional background would show that really a lot of people in this society have been caused hurt. I think everybody in this society is entitled to truth, is entitled to justice.

"I understand the context in which every group, every area of society which inflicted pain upon another area of society, I understand that context.

"And I want to do everything in my power as the MP for North Belfast to make sure that we never return to those times again."

When Mr Finucane was asked if he believed that the IRA's campaign of violence was justified, he replied: "Well, that's not what I'm here tonight to talk about. I'm here tonight really to talk about a very progressive, forward-thinking message. My campaign and my platform, which I have been bringing to the doors of North Belfast, is one which is primarily about Brexit.

We have a candidate here who is very much pro-Brexit (Mr Dodds). I couldn't be any more of a polar opposite in respect of that.

"And it's also about dealing with issues including equality. Equality touching into areas of legacy, and on other areas such as language, such as gender, such as LGBT rights."

Mr Finucane was also asked if he condemned the Shankill bombing, which killed nine people in north Belfast in 1993.

"I condemn all acts of violence, and as I said from somebody who has lived in North Belfast all his life, who has been affected by the Troubles in a very public manner which people will know all about, I wouldn't want any other person in this society, in my constituency or beyond to go through certainly what I went through or any other family went through," he stated.

Also present at the event were Emmett and Grainne Guinness, children of late Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. Emmett McGuinness said his father would have approved of Mr Finucane's candidacy, and added that he was "very proud to have come up here to support a fabulous candidate".

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