Belfast Telegraph

State-sponsored violence and prisoners are reasons why people should vote: SF's Conor Murphy

By Chris McCullough

Sinn Fein have used "prisoners" and "British state-sponsored killings" as reasons why the electorate should vote in the increasingly toxic up-coming Assembly election.

Speaking at an event in Newry at the weekend, Sinn Fein candidate for Newry and Armagh, Conor Murphy, said he had been asked while canvassing "what's the point of voting?".

In response, he said: "My initial reaction was, people sitting in a cold cell with a blanket wrapped around them weren't asking what's the point.

"Not everybody draws from that, that's history for a lot of people. So they don't draw the same personal inspiration from that struggle that I do, so what is the point?

"If you have somebody belonging to you who was injured or hurt or killed as a consequence of British state-sponsored violence or torture in this country, and they are trying to get access to truth and justice, that's the point."

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein have been criticised after they launched an anti-corruption billboard in west Belfast on Sunday.

They said it was a bid to "stand up against corruption, arrogance and contempt for whole sections of the public at the heart of government".

The criticism came from families of Troubles victims who branded it a "stunt" from a party with a "history of keeping people in the dark".

Speaking at the launch of the billboard on the junction of the Falls Road and Andersonstown Road, Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly said the party is standing up against what he dubbed DUP arrogance and contempt for the public.

Mr Kelly commented: "RHI should stand for Respect, Honesty and Integrity in the political process rather than being a byword for scandal and incompetence as a result of the DUP's handling of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). The DUP's RHI scheme literally saw money that could be used for frontline public services going up in smoke.

"Sinn Fein is standing in this election to restore public confidence in the political institutions, which must be based on the principles of equality and respect for all.

"We are standing up against corruption, arrogance and contempt for whole sections of the public at the heart of government. What is won in the negotiations post-election is a win for everyone."

However, victims of the Troubles say they are angry that a Republican party such as Sinn Fein can claim to be honest. In 1985, when only 12-years-old, Sammy Heenan found his father in a pool of blood, murdered by the IRA behind one of their sheds on the family's small holding at Rathfriland. He had already lost his mother and grandmother three years prior to his father being shot, and was left an orphan, growing up with his cousins.

Mr Heenan said the billboard was an "epiphany of hypocrisy".

He continued: "Republicans have showed no remorse or sympathy towards all the victims they have left behind over the past 40-plus years.

"It really is an epiphany of hypocrisy for Sinn Fein to claim it is honest and has integrity, or that it is anti-corrupt, when no one from the party has ever came forward to reveal details of their depravity in the past."

Serena Hamilton lost her father in 1977 when he was shot by the Provisional IRA in Coalisland.

Mrs Hamilton said: "As politicians Sinn Fein are supposed to represent everyone but they have shown no respect, honesty or integrity to victims like me. I lost all that when my father was murdered and no one has ever been brought to justice for his murder. No-one knows more about corruption than the leaders of Sinn Fein in my opinion."

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