Belfast Telegraph

Barry McElduff resigns: Right for him to quit - what now of Mairtin O Muilleoir? asks Jim Allister

By Jonathan Bell

TUV leader Jim Allister said it was right for Barry McElduff to resign but asked what now of fellow Sinn Fein representative Mairtin O Muilleoir who retweeted the controversial Kingsmill video.

Mr McElduff resigned after a week of controversy which saw the West Tyrone MP post a video on social media of him with a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head. He posted the video on the anniversary of the 1976 Kingsmill massacre.

He said he had not realised the significance of the date and apologised. His party suspended him on full pay which led to a further outcry with some describing it as too lenient.

Unionist politicians have now questioned what will happen to MLA Mairtin O Muilleoir who retweeted the offending video. The South Belfast MLA later apologised and retracted the retweet. The party has said he has been spoked to about his use of social media and the matter resolved.

"I acknowledge he has done the right thing, although it took a while but he got there," Jim Allister told the BBC Stephen Nolan show.

"This does raise an interesting question about Mairtin O Muilleoir. Because if it was right for McElduff to resign and it is, what of Mr O Muilleoir who thought it appropriate to retweet the very thing that has caused McElduff to go?

"I think we need to hear more from Mr O Muilleoir and we need to hear if he is considering his position."

Whether or not there was also ever choreography with the attempt to resuscitate political talks who knows? Jim Allister

He added: "Whether or not McElduff was pushed or jumped, it is hard to know but what is obvious is that Sinn Fein were on the back foot on this and will welcome the relief this brings them.

"The fact is this should never have happened."

Mr Allister said the three-month suspension from the party on full pay imposed on Mr McElduff was a "joke".

"They thought they could get away with it," he added, "It was clear it was not dying down and it has been damaging to Sinn Fein's reputation as they have been pretending to have an interest in the rights for others and themselves and this was clearly a gross contradiction of that.

"They have sought to sanitise their own position.

"Whether or not there was also ever choreography with the attempt to resuscitate political talks who knows? One thing is clear Mr McElduff acted in an outrageous fashion, he should never have done what he did, and he should have faced up to it at the time and now he has it is better late than never."

Mr O Muilleoir retracted his retweet and apologised at the time, which Sinn Fein acknowledged at the time. He has again been asked for a comment.

Asked about it at a press conference, Michelle O'Neill said the MLA had been spoken to and told to consider his social media use, "and that's the matter dealt with," she said.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said the time was right for Mr McElduff to 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.

"Over the course of the last ten days Sinn Fein has failed to deal with the McElduff situation.  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 Kingmill and indeed victims more widely.  Sinn Fein got this badly wrong.

Families of murdered workmen attend an evening service in 1976 as six coffins of IRA victims are brought to church in Bessbrook the night before the funerals of those killed in the Provisional IRA's infamous sectarian Whitecross (Kingsmill) Massacre. The IRA lined up the occupants of a workers minibus carrying 11 protestants and one catholic, before releasing the catholic man and mowing down the 10 protestant workmen, leaving the critically injured Mr Alan Black for dead. Alan Lewis Photopress
Families of murdered workmen attend an evening service in 1976 as six coffins of IRA victims are brought to church in Bessbrook the night before the funerals of those killed in the Provisional IRA's infamous sectarian Whitecross (Kingsmill) Massacre. The IRA lined up the occupants of a workers minibus carrying 11 protestants and one catholic, before releasing the catholic man and mowing down the 10 protestant workmen, leaving the critically injured Mr Alan Black for dead. Alan Lewis Photopress
The victims of the Kingsmill massacre (clockwise from top left): Robert Chambers; John Bryans; Joseph Lemmon; James McWhirter; Robert Freeburn; Robert Walker; Reginald Chapman; Kenneth Worton; John McConville and Walter Chapman
Kimgsmill massacre aftermath
Walter Chapman
John McConville
Kenneth Worton
Reginald Chapman
Robert Walker
Robert Freeburn
James McWhirter
Joseph Lemmon
John Bryans
Robert Chambers
The funeral service for five victims of the Kingsmills massacre at the Presbyterian church grounds in Bessbrook
Alan Black was shot 18 times but survived the Kingsmills massacre
Alan Black in hospital after the IRA shot him and killed 10 of his colleagues at Kingsmills
Alan Black:Survivor of the Kingsmill, Armagh, Massacre/Shooting, when he was shot with his 10 workmates in an ambushon their way home from work by gunmen. Pictured at the Kingsmill Memorial monument. 4/1/1981
A man lays a wreath at the Kingsmill memorial in South Armagh (PA)
People attend a roadside service marking the 42nd anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre (Brian Lawless/PA)
Karen Armstrong holds a photograph of her brother John McConville, who was killed in the Kingsmill attack
Sisters Cathy Michale, Colleen McKenna and Eileen Reavey unveil the monument to commemorate their brothers in Whitecross, Armagh
The crowd assembled at the service of remembrance for the victims held at the Town Hall in Bessbrook yesterday to mark the 40th anniversary of the atrocity

"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.”

Resignation long overdue. Robin Swann

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann MLA said the resignation was "long over due".

"It should have happened last week," he said.

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

“Given the hurt that has been caused to victims by Mr McElduff’s actions I think it is important that any by-election provides them with a voice.  I am therefore calling for a non-partisan candidate who will be a voice for victims to contest this seat against Sinn Fein.

“The condemnation of Barry McElduff`s deeply offensive actions has come from across the community.  If a candidate emerges that allows cross-community support to coalesce around, it would send a strong message that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated.”

Sinn Fein leadership cannot escape the fact that their failures have undermined the task of reconciliation. Colum Eastwood

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood also welcomed the the MP's quitting.

"His actions caused huge offence and immense hurt," he 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."

He continued: "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.

“The Sinn Fein leadership cannot escape the fact that their failures have undermined the task of reconciliation that can only be put right by finally apologising for the Kingsmill Massacre. While Barry McElduff has finally done the right thing, it is now Michelle O’Neill’s turn.”

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland also welcomed the resignation.

A spokesperson for the church said: “In resigning Barry McElduff has done the right thing and bowed to the inevitable. We welcome his resignation and hope that this deeply offensive episode, that hurt so many, will be a salient lesson for all in public leadership.”

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