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Unionists blast Sinn Fein over anti-sectarian charter launch days after O’Neill hailed IRA men

By Cate McCurry

Senior unionist politicians have labelled the leader of Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland a "hypocrite" after it emerged she was launching the party's charter against sectarianism today.

Michelle O'Neill will join a number of republican representatives in west Belfast to reveal the party's 'One Community' anti-sectarian policy.

It comes days after she addressed a commemoration event in memory of four IRA men shot dead by the SAS in 1992 in Clonoe, Co Tyrone.

Mrs O'Neill was the main speaker at the event last Thursday to mark the 25th anniversary of the deaths of Patrick Vincent, Sean O'Farrell, Peter Clancy and Barry O'Donnell.

They were ambushed after carrying out a machine-gun attack on the RUC station in neighbouring Coalisland.

Unionist politicians and relatives of IRA victims denounced her attendance.

They claimed that it undermined her pledges to work for reconciliation.

Unionists are now accusing her of "hypocrisy", as the launch of the anti-sectarian charter comes so soon after the vigil in her home village.

TUV leader Jim Allister said republicans continue to "glorify and justify" a sectarian terrorist campaign.

He said: "Sinn Fein doesn't do irony, but they do hypocrisy.

"They have justified and continued to justify sectarian murders namely Kingsmill, Le Mon, Teebane and Enniskillen.

"It is rich beyond belief for them to be posturing over anti-sectarianism when they have validated and justified a wholly sectarian terror campaign.

"Where was their anti-sectarian charter at Kingsmill and Teebane and all the others?

"It's rank hypocrisy from the republican movement and no one will be conned by it because they are the people who have been most sectarian in the worst possible aspect by justifying sectarian, genocidal attacks."

Ulster Unionist MP Tom Elliott said that the charter was a "stunt" by the party.

The Fermanagh and South Tyrone representative said: "This so called anti-sectarian charter is being carried out like they are rubbing everyone's noses in it.

"It is as if to say we can do as we want, we can have memorials to IRA members who murdered your citizens and at the same time we want to have an anti-sectarian charter.

"The two don't add up.

"It's hypocritical - but they never worry about that and it never comes into their thought process."

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, MP for Lagan Valley, also criticised Mrs O'Neill.

The DUP man called for Sinn Fein to acknowledge what he called its "deeply sectarian attitude".

"What we need to hear from Sinn Fein is an absolute and unequivocal apology for the countless sectarian murders which were committed by the Provisional IRA during the Troubles when Protestants were singled out and cut down in cold blood," he said.

"The first thing they have to do is acknowledge that in the past they themselves have adopted deeply sectarian attitudes. They have engaged in deeply sectarian actions that have caused a lot of hurt, pain and division in Northern Ireland over the years.

"Many people will look at this and then see a Sinn Fein leader attending a so-called memorial event which eulogises people who were engaged in sectarian acts of terrorism.

"I do wonder if double standards are being applied in this situation."

The anti-sectarian charter will be launched in Sinn Fein's Falls Road office today.

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