Belfast Telegraph

Dismay but no surprise as McElduff returns to politics: victims campaigner

By Mark Edwards

Victims of terrorism in Northern Ireland will be "dismayed but not surprised" by Sinn Fein's decision to select former MP Barry McElduff as a candidate for the upcoming council elections, a leading victims campaigner said last night.

Mr McElduff was forced to quit as MP for West Tyrone in January after he posted footage on Twitter of himself posing with a Kingsmill-branded loaf on his head on the anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre.

The IRA atrocity on January 5, 1976 saw gunmen stop a minibus carrying 11 Protestant workmen, line them up and shoot them.

Only one man survived, having been shot 18 times.

Despite the controversy surrounding the republican, Sinn Fein announced last night that Mr McElduff will stand in council elections for Omagh Town next May.

Kenny Donaldson, spokesman for Innocent Victims United, said: "Innocent victims and survivors of terrorism and many others will be dismayed but in no way surprised by this latest development.

"Many will conclude that Sinn Fein took an opportunity earlier this year to demote Barry McElduff - not because of the offence caused to Kingsmills families through his reckless actions but rather because Sinn Fein saw an opportunity to bring through what it wishes to present as a 'new generation of republican'.

"Sinn Fein talks the language of equality, the language of respect, the language of peace-building - but talk is all it ever is.

"Actions count and the Provisional Movement's track record on matters concerning victims and survivors have been defined by its lust for violence and coercion, dominance and contempt for difference."

Mr McElduff at the time of his resignation said he was not aware his Twitter post coincided with the Kingsmill anniversary but said he resigned in order not to impede efforts to forge reconciliation in Northern Ireland. In October the Public Prosecution Service confirmed it would not be prosecuting Mr McElduff for the video.

The purpose of its investigation was to determine whether there was sufficient evidence under the Communications Act 2003 and the Public Order Order 1987 to proceed with a prosecution.

It found there was not enough evidence.

Mr McElduff said: "I am honoured to be selected for Ard Comhairle ratification to contest the upcoming Council election for Sinn Fein in Omagh, a town that I have a great affinity for and have been proud to represent in the past.

"We currently have one very hard working representative and community champion in Omagh, Councillor Martin McColgan, and it's our determination to maximise our potential by winning three seats in the next election.

"Councillor Anne Marie Fitzgerald will also be making the move from Mid Tyrone into Omagh, and as someone who already represents Killyclogher, has previously lived there and has strong family and professional connections to the town, it will be a natural transition.

"For my own part, I have been proud to serve people across West Tyrone over the past 20 years and I look forward to the campaign ahead and to be part of a dynamic team that will return the maximum amount of Sinn Fein Councillors."

Mr McElduff had previously served as a West Tyrone MLA between June 1998 and June 2017. He served just 222 days as an abstentionist MP before his resignation.

Belfast Telegraph

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