Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Unionist Tina McKenzie hurt by demand to sign 'non-violence declaration' because dad was in IRA

NI21's Tina McKenzie
NI21's Tina McKenzie

Innocent Victims United demanded that a European election candidate sign up to a non-violence declaration before attending a hustings event for parties contesting the forthcoming European and local government elections.

The candidate, Tina McKenzie of NI21, agreed to do so, but said that it should not have been necessary.

She was singled out because her father, Harry Fitzsimmons, carried out an IRA bombing in 1971 – before she was even born.

Fitzsimmons was jailed while his then wife was pregnant with Ms McKenzie, and he divorced Ms McKenzie's mother shortly after coming out of prison.

Innocent Victims United (IVU) is a coalition of 14 groups representing victims of Troubles-era terrorist violence.

It has produced a seven-point victims' charter which is supported by the Ulster Unionists, TUV and DUP.

It refuses to deal with Sinn Fein or the PUP.

Ms McKenzie, the NI21 European election candidate, is a pro-Union Catholic.

Fitzsimmons, a millionaire property tycoon, is a former Provo who was jailed for his bombing of a Belfast hotel.

Last night Kenny Donaldson of IVU said: "Tina has not been involved in violence but she is the daughter of someone who was very different, and for victims there are sensitivities and those issues have to be dealt with."

Asked if it was right to judge people by what their parents did before they were born, Mr Donaldson replied: "To be honest, on victims' issues, yes.

"There is that much distrust at this particular time, particularly within the victims' community, that people are very, very nervous with someone who happens to come from a family such as that."

He added: "If she (Tina McKenzie) can lay those things to bed then I hope that she can be given a fair crack of the whip."

Ms McKenzie said: "I reject violence and I do not agree with it in any shape or form.

"My politics are very clear, and I must say I was really hurt by this."

She added: "I am 41, I have my own family, and I am a successful businesswoman.

"I have lived across the world but when I come back to Northern Ireland that doesn't count, and I am seen as an IRA man's daughter.

"I want to build a society for my children where their generation won't be judged by what their parents or grandparents did."

She added: "I am very sympathetic to the victims but I think it is unfair to discriminate against me like this."

Another victim rallied to Ms McKenzie's defence.

Jayne Olorunda's accountant father Max was killed in an IRA train bombing in Dunmurry in 1980.

She is an N121 local government candidate and also accompanied Mr Donaldson as part of an IVU delegation to the Haass talks last year.

"It would never have occurred to me to ask Tina this," she said.

"She is not responsible for her father.

"She has not committed a crime, but it is as if she is being accused of one. In an email to Mr Donaldson, Ms McKenzie wrote: "The Troubles was a dark period in Northern Ireland's history, a period which was very much avoidable and unnecessary.

"I reject all acts of paramilitary violence and illegal State violence carried out during the Troubles.

"I got into politics for the specific reason that I want Northern Ireland to move forward; that my children and all of the children of NI should never have to experience the trauma of victims and their families."

Last night she said she hoped this will lay any question about her attitude to violence to rest once and for all.

Mr Donaldson said his committee would meet today to consider her statement.

He added that at the hustings he is organising tomorrow night in Cookstown, all parties who attended would be presented with a 10-point contract on victims' issues. They would be asked to sign up to it within a set timeframe, and Sinn Fein is not being invited to participate.

Last week NI21 launched its election posters, many of them printed in Irish. Ms McKenzie featured on the posters, which the party said was an attempt to depoliticise the language.

NI21 is Northern Ireland's newest party.

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