Belfast Telegraph

Barry McElduff not fit to be MP and should have quit earlier, claims DUP's Foster

By Adrian Rutherford

Arlene Foster has welcomed the resignation of Barry McElduff, claiming he was unfit for office.

Mr McElduff stepped down as MP for West Tyrone yesterday.

It followed more than a week of controversy and anger after he posed with a Kingsmill-branded loaf on his head on the anniversary of the IRA massacre in the South Armagh village.

His departure was welcomed across the political spectrum.

Mrs Foster, the DUP leader, said it was right that Mr McElduff should go.

"He was not fit for public office and should have resigned in the immediate aftermath of posting the disgraceful video mocking and insulting the horrific terrorist events at Kingsmill," she said.

Mrs Foster said Sinn Fein's initial reaction - to suspend Mr McElduff on full pay from party activities for three months - was inadequate.

"Over the course of the last 10 days Sinn Fein has failed to deal with the McElduff situation," she said.

"By merely suspending him and continuing to pay him, they compounded his disgraceful actions and demonstrated a lack of respect and compassion for the victims of Kingsmill and indeed victims more widely."

Mrs Foster said Sinn Fein had got the situation "badly wrong".

She added: "Now is the time for Sinn Fein to learn the lessons from these dark events and to deal with the fact that it, and many of its individual members, continue to publicly glorify the murderous deeds of the past.

"This needs to end if we are to build a future based on integrity and respect.

"Sinn Fein has much work to do to demonstrate they have truly learned from these events."

Mr McElduff yesterday repeated his insistence that he had not meant the video as a reference to the sectarian murders of the 10 Protestant workmen near Kingsmill in 1976.

However, DUP MLA William Irwin, whose Newry and Armagh constituency covers the scene of the massacre, said the video had caused great hurt. "Following the release of the despicable video by the Sinn Fein MP, and the lenient sanctions imposed by his party, Mr McElduff's resignation was the only course of action possible given the indescribable anguish and hurt caused to the families of the victims of this horrific sectarian massacre," he said.

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann welcomed the resignation, but said it had come a week too late.

"This is a day when a Sinn Fein Member of Parliament has done the right thing," Mr Swann added.

"His resignation was long overdue. His position was absolutely untenable given the hurt and pain inflicted on the Kingsmill victims' families and the sole survivor, Alan Black. This has been a horrendous experience for them.

"It is right that the people of West Tyrone are now given the opportunity to elect a Member of Parliament who will take their seat in the House of Commons and be a voice for everyone."

There was also support for Mr McElduff's decision from within Sinn Fein yesterday.

South Down MLA Chris Hazzard Tweeted: "A very respectful resignation from @BarryMcElduff this morning. It's clear he is a man with genuine republican values & incorrigible integrity. I'm hopeful his words today brought some comfort to those he offended last week."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Mr McElduff had done the right thing by resigning. He referred to a weekend interview where Alan Black, the sole survivor of the atrocity, accused Mr McElduff of depravity and dancing on the victims' graves.

Mr Eastwood said: "Over the weekend we heard from Alan Black about his pain and that of the families of the victims of Kingsmill. It is deeply regrettable that it has taken over a week for Mr McElduff to do the right thing.

"Many will welcome Mr McElduff's resignation, but will also question the failure of the Sinn Fein leadership to deal decisively with this issue.

"As I said before, the provisional republican movement has never expressed full remorse for the specific murders it was involved in, including those at Kingsmill. That is a reality the Sinn Fein leadership fail to face up to.

"If we are to deliver a truly reconciled society, the Sinn Fein leadership needs to accept that they have never gained trust amongst the unionist community." Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said the McElduff episode should serve to show the requirement to prioritise the needs of victims here.

He said: "There must be a robust and effective means of dealing with the past created so those most directly affected by our past can have their requirements addressed."

TUV leader Jim Allister also referred to the "harrowing but dignified" words of Mr Black.

"Sinn Fein thought that this would blow over, but victims ensured that was impossible. Now, in an attempt at damage limitation, McElduff has been pushed," he said.

Brendan Howlin, leader of the Labour party in the Republic, tweeted: "Finally the right action by Barry McElduff to step down. The Sinn Fein leadership are at last grasping the moral horror of McElduff's video."

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