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Manchester attack: IRA victims slam Sinn Fein's 'faux sympathy' as nauseous hypocrisy

By Noel McAdam

IRA victims have hit out at the "faux sympathy" of Sinn Fein for those affected by the Manchester atrocity.

Their attacks came after Belfast Telegraph commentator Eilis O'Hanlon accused the party's Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill of "hypocrisy" after she signed a book of condolence at Belfast City Hall.

Mrs O'Neill unequivocally condemned the Manchester Arena bombing - a move that prompted a wave of criticism, as the IRA bombed the English city twice in the 1990s.

Ann Travers, whose sister Mary was killed in an IRA attack after Sunday Mass in a Belfast church, described Sinn Fein as: "Hypocrites and faux sympathy the lot of them."

One republican politician asked by a reporter to condemn the IRA bombings was told to ask about it "next week".

But Ms Travers said that "for them to tell journalists to concentrate on Manchester and ask them next week is disingenuous and disgusting".

Ms O'Hanlon wrote in this newspaper yesterday that Mrs O'Neill's condemnation of Monday's atrocity came "only weeks after attending yet another commemoration for Provisional IRA members killed on so-called active service".

"Defending that decision, the Co Tyrone woman described those who died at Loughgall as 'Irish patriots'," Ms O'Hanlon wrote.

"The terrorists that Michelle O'Neill proudly celebrates murdered children too, and far more than were killed in Manchester. "The 'patriots' whose memory she venerates indiscriminately slaughtered people quietly going about their business in public places.

"Just because the men she celebrates did it for a united Ireland, and the Manchester bomber most likely for a worldwide Islamic caliphate under Sharia law, doesn't make it any more acceptable."

Sinn Fein yesterday failed to answer repeated Belfast Telegraph requests for a response article from Mrs O'Neill.

Austin Stack, who has fought a public campaign to find the IRA gunmen who shot his father Brian Stack in 1983, vented his criticism on Facebook.

"The cynical hypocrisy of the Provo movement is unbelievable and needs to be challenged in every level by the media," he said.

"These people found it acceptable to bomb Manchester in 1996 and never condemned that bombing.

"Let's not forget the Provos murdered young people in the Birmingham and Warrington bombs. A terrorist bomb is a terrorist bomb no matter who plants it or what cause they plant it for."

TUV leader Jim Allister also slammed what he called the "hollow words" of Sinn Fein, which he said had left victims with a "sense of nausea."

He added: "Eilis O'Hanlon's article was a welcome corrective to the coverage of Sinn Fein representatives' comments on the most recent Manchester bombing being taken at face value.

"Those who have suffered at the hands of the IRA have rightly felt a sense of nausea having to listen to hollow words from Sinn Fein knowing that they justified, and in some cases engaged in, planting bombs which caused similar damage, injuries and deaths."

The article provoked a widespread reaction and a strong response on BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show.

One Sinn Fein source who did not want to be named described it as "a diatribe".

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