The DUP MP Ian Paisley has said comments by Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill in which she claimed there was no alternative to IRA violence during the Troubles have created “a new crisis” for Stormont.
North Antrim MP Mr Paisley said Sinn Fein have “serious rethinking and rebuilding to do” after the “absolutely atrocious” comments by Ms O’Neill, who said there was no alternative to IRA violence during the Troubles.
Speaking on the BBC Stephen Nolan programme, Mr Paisley commented: “I think the comments by Michelle O’Neill are absolutely atrocious,” and added: “I think Sinn Fein have to repair this”.
"Here we have someone who said there was no alternative to firing bullets and planting bombs, destroying lives and the mayhem and murder,” he said.
"And yet this person aspires to be First Minister of Northern Ireland and has a mandate to be so.
"I think that it’s absolutely shocking that ideologically this is where Michelle O’Neill actually is, that ideologically she’s not in a place where she can say ‘that was wrong, that shouldn’t have happened and we should have sought a democratic mandate from day one.’”
Mr Paisley said he did not believe there had ever been a situation that justified the firing of one bullet or the planting of one bomb or the murder of one person.
"It’s what happened, but ideologically I think this current group of Sinn Fein politicians really need a good hard look at themselves and recognise that they are regressing from territory that Sinn Fein had progressed from in 2007.”
Ms O’Neill, Sinn Fein’s vice president and First Minister in waiting, made the comments during an interview with the BBC’s Red Lines podcast.
The daughter of a former IRA prisoner, she recalled that one of her earliest memories was the sound of Army vehicles coming to her front door as the family home was raided.
“I don’t think any Irish person ever woke up one morning and thought that conflict was a good idea, but the war came to Ireland,” she said.
“I think at the time there was no alternative, but now, thankfully, we have an alternative to conflict and that’s the Good Friday Agreement, and that’s why it’s so precious to us all.
“My whole adult life has been building the peace process. I wish the conditions were never here that actually led to conflict, I wish that so many people didn’t have the horrible experience that they’ve had throughout the conflict days.
“The only way we’re ever going to build a better future is actually to understand that it’s OK to have a different take on the past.”
She added: “My narrative is a very different one to someone who’s perhaps lost a loved one at the hands of republicans.
“But we need to be mature enough to be able to say: ‘That’s OK, we’ll have to agree to differ on that one, but let’s make sure that the conditions never exist again that we find ourselves in that scenario’.”
On Tuesday, the brother of a man murdered at Kingsmill told the Belfast Telegraph the comments had been “sickening”.
Colin Worton’s brother Kenneth was one of 10 Protestant workmen shot dead in the 1976 atrocity.
“There was always an alternative to violence, the IRA just chose not to use it,” he said.
“The alternative to killing people is not killing people, it’s as simple as that. Nobody, on either side of the divide, should have chosen the gun or the bomb. Nobody should have killed anyone else.
“At Kingsmill, it was not a case of shooting armed men in a fair fight. My brother and his friends were armed only with lunchboxes and flasks.”
He said the remarks showed Sinn Fein’s “narrow” mindset.”
“For 30 years the IRA was wedded to the bomb and the bullet, and Sinn Fein is still trying to justify it. I don’t think they’ll ever change,” he said.
On Wednesday, TUV councillor Stephen Cooper said: “The claim by Sinn Fein’s leader in Northern Ireland that there ‘was no alternative’ to IRA terrorism is a telling insight into the mindset of someone who claims that she wants to be a First Minister for everyone.”
Victims campaigner Kenny Donaldson also condemned the comments.
“Whatever grievance (perceived or real) people experienced within this society, it never legitimised the murder of one neighbour by another,” he said.