| 9°C Belfast

IRA 'were a main protagonist' in Northern Ireland conflict: Gerry Kelly


Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly has said the IRA were one of the main protagonists in the Northern Ireland Troubles.

The party faced criticism for stating the British Government was the "main protagonist" in its submission to the public consultation on how to deal with the past in Northern Ireland. The IRA is not mentioned in the document, although it does acknolwedge the challenges faced by "all conflict actors, including republicans".

"The British state has always sought to conceal, deny and cover up its central role in the Irish conflict," their paper stated calling for the UK government to change its approach to dealing with the past.

"To date the British government’s approach has been to deny and cover up its own role and culpability as the main conflict protagonist."

Many said the party's claim did not stand up to scrutiny. However the party's vice president Michelle O'Neill said it had engaged with victims from across the spectrum on its submission.

Speaking to the BBC, Sinn Fein MLA and former IRA member Gerry Kelly admitted to a poor choice of words.

"It is reasonable for me and for republicans to say the British were the main protagonists," he said.

"But I am also accepting that unionists, political unionism or British soldiers or whoever wants to say that the IRA were the main protagonist ... I have no difficulty with that because the IRA were a main protagonist."

He added: "I think in a way if it had said 'a' main instead of 'the' main protagonist then we may not be having this argument. I am not denying the IRA were a main protagonist as well."

Belfast Telegraph