| 0.6°C Belfast

'I'm not expecting anyone to believe me, but I'm telling the truth' - Barry McElduff denies Kingsmill stunt was intentional ahead of politics return



Barry McElduff.

Barry McElduff.

PA Wire/PA Images

Barry McElduff with Kingsmill loaf on his head

Barry McElduff with Kingsmill loaf on his head


Barry McElduff.

Barry McElduff has said he was strongly encouraged by Sinn Fein party members to re-enter public life following his resignation as MP for west Tyrone.

Mr McElduff was forced to quit the role after posting a video with a loaf of Kingsmill-branded bread 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.

Mr McElduff announced on Thursday that he will stand in council elections in Omagh in May next year.

In October the Public Prosecution Service confirmed it would not be prosecuting Mr McElduff for the video.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback on Friday Mr McElduff reiterated that the incident was a genuine mistake and that Kingsmill had been the only brand of bread available in the shop.

"I went to the shop late at night to lift my daughter who was working in the shop. I hadn't intended on going into the shop at all, I had been signalled because the family might want some provisions," he said.

"So I quickly ran around the shop and lifted three or four items and jokingly put the bread on my head as I made my way to the counter, as a bit of levity," he told host William Crawley.

"A bit like a joiner on a building site with a pencil behind his ear and saying 'did anyone see my pencil?', I said something like 'where does the shop keep the bread?', it's as simple as that, honest to God.

"I believe, and this has been confirmed, that it was the only available bread on the night in question, it was early new year, very few orders had come through and I think that can be confirmed."

The former West Tyrone MP said that he voluntarily met with police to discuss the incident.

"I volunteered to do an interview with the police, I was accompanied by my lawyer, then a file was prepared and sent to the PPS and then the PPS wrote to me on October 31st and said there weren't grounds to prosecute. I'm not asking anyone to believe me, but I'm just asserting the truth that this was coincidence. A very cruel, a very unintentional coincidence," Mr McElduff said.

He told Talkback that he didn't know it was the anniversary of the Kingsmill Massacre, and he did not make the association with the bread.

"One of the reasons why I wasn't conscious of it was when Kingsmill happened I would have been nine years of age and my political conscience developed later, it may have been late 1970s, 1979. I personally don't remember Bloody Sunday or the killing of the O'Dowd family etc, but I've read about it and come to learn about it, but it wasn't in my consciousness.

"This might sound ridiculous, but I didn't make any association, even later between the product and the massacre. Even now I would say everyone associates the name of the bread with the massacre, but I don't believe prior to January that everybody would have made that association.

"When I realised that this association was being made by others, I did try my best in a very difficult situation to react with dignity and integrity, I accepted suspension and I even subsequently resigned as an MP, probably because I placed a greater value on other people's feelings than I did on my own position.

Mr McElduff said it was his own decision to resign as an MP and Sinn Fein did not put pressure on him.

"I reflected on it and I did ask people 'am I in resignation territory?' some said no, and some said yes. Ultimately, I took responsibility for my own actions and I wanted to even challenge myself to be selfless in the matter because I realised that other people were hurting as a consequence of my action, which was purely coincidental, never the less I had to take action," he said.

"When I apologised publicly I didn't say 'if I caused hurt' I said 'I have caused hurt'. Even though it was wholly coincidental and unintentional on my behalf I still tried to step up to the mark of those who were hurting.

He told the Talkback show that he had encouragement from across Sinn Fein to return to politics.

"I was being strongly encouraged by Sinn Fein party members and supporters generally and people within the community, to re-enter public life. I'm pleased to be selected by Sinn Fein party members in Omagh to contest the upcoming council elections," Mr McElduff said.

"I have received messages of support from every level of the Sinn Fein party and am confident that the party will ratify my nomination.

"If I'm being 100% honest there is a sigh of relief within republicanism and nationalism that someone who has tried their best to act with dignity and integrity in a very difficult situation has done his best."

Belfast Telegraph