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Sinn Fein's Barry McElduff defends social distancing failure caught on video

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Barry McElduff and Anne Marie Fitzgerald in Omagh

Barry McElduff and Anne Marie Fitzgerald in Omagh

Barry McElduff and Anne Marie Fitzgerald in Omagh

Former Sinn Fein MP Barry McElduff has defended his actions after pictures emerged which appeared to show him failing to observe social distancing - while making a video calling for a business to ensure its staff could maintain social distancing in the workplace.

He made the short clip with a Fermanagh and Omagh Council colleague earlier this month outside the Omagh Meats plant in Tyrone following a Covid-19 outbreak.

In the video, Mr McElduff, clad in gloves and mask, says: "We are listening very, very carefully to the concerns of workers, as expressed to us throughout this very difficult week for those workers."

Councillor Anne Marie Fitzgerald then says: "Myself and Barry are here today and we are calling on management to implement or improve their health and safety guidelines for the workers, not only for them but for the sake of their families."

Mr McElduff, who is now a councillor, then adds: "Today we wanted to be here in person, socially distanced, at the factory itself, to hand in a letter for the attention of the management.

"We have just done that and we do sincerely hope that management listen to the concerns of workers and their families."

But in photographs obtained by our sister paper Sunday Life Mr McElduff appears to be standing within what seems to be inches from Ms Fitzgerald.

Taken in what appears to be a car park beside the plant, Mr McElduff can be seen with Ms Fitzgerald and an unknown woman who helps tie the mask around the back of his head.

In another picture he seems to be struggling with his mask again when Ms Fitzgerald steps in to help fix the apparently tricky strings.

The former MP quit his Westminster seat in 2018 after making a social media video of himself balancing a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head on the anniversary of the IRA massacre of 10 Protestant workmen at Kingsmill, Co Armagh, in 1976.

Following yesterday's report Mr McElduff said he had received assistance "for a few seconds" after his face mask had become detached.

"I am very conscious of, and strive to honour social distancing," he told the BBC. "Crucially, this should not become a distraction from the concerns about the safety of workers in order to save lives and prevent the further spread of this pandemic."

Belfast Telegraph