Martina Anderson at event in loyalist estate a 'publicity stunt'
Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson's unannounced attendance at an event in a loyalist area of east Belfast with a camera crew in tow to film her quoting Bobby Sands was an insulting publicity stunt that damaged community relations, a councillor has claimed.
The convicted IRA bomber attended an event on Saturday organised by artist Lise McGreevy in Tullycarnet Library, billed as a showcase for Ulster-Scots and Irish heritage.
It came days after Ms Anderson provoked controversy for a speech in which she told the Government that its "days in Ireland are numbered" and used the slogan "Tiocfaidh ar la".
The east Belfast event was not widely publicised, and following Ms Anderson's entrance Sinn Fein posted a video on YouTube where the MEP is heard quoting IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands.
"I was thinking very much about what Bobby Sands had said that the men of art had lost their heart but when I looked at what Lise McGreevy has done with her exhibition I was delighted, very proud to be there representing Sinn Fein," she said.
PUP councillor John Kyle said that while the artist was welcome to invite whoever she liked, anyone attending should have understood the community they were coming in to.
"Martina Anderson arrived with a camera crew in tow and entered a building in the heart of the loyalist community quoting Bobby Sands," he said.
"Having a few days previously given a highly publicised speech at a republican event that was extremely disrespectful and offensive to unionists, she was going into a community which she knew would have been deeply offended by her.
"Then we have her turning up in what was no more than a publicity stunt. She used the event for her own gain and that was insulting."
A Sinn Fein spokesperson told the Belfast Telegraph that Ms Anderson "was invited to an event as part of the EastSide Arts Festival promoting peace and reconciliation and was happy to attend and take part".
"Martina Anderson was democratically elected to the European Parliament to represent everyone in the north and regularly engages with people from all communities and backgrounds."
However, Mr Kyle disagreed that there had been engagement. He said: "Had she showed willing to interact with the community that would have been a different matter. I understand there was another Sinn Fein representative in attendance and there was none of this nonsense of making a show of it.
"Sinn Fein speak about equality, respect and reconciliation and yet at the same time these stunts are highly sectarian, highly provocative and show a complete lack of respect. That hypocrisy needs to be called out.
"Both communities need to move beyond this sort of behaviour. It's not just the republicans who are doing it. Both communities need to move beyond this deliberatively sectarian, provocative behaviour.
"Showcasing her arrival online rubs salt into the wounds.
"In the end what we have is relations being damaged rather than being improved in an area which is has been making great strides. The local boxing club has been developing links across the city and that is to be welcomed, but it is being done quietly and effectively.
"To arrive unannounced, giving a running commentary at a cultural event and quoting Bobby Sands does nothing other than damage provoke anger. She knew she would cause offence."
In the video of Ms Anderson's visit, the MEP urged members of the public to see McGreevy's work.
"She is certainly involved with peace and reconciliation and unlike the men of art who had no heart she has got a heart and she is bringing people together through music, song, dance and particularly through the fantastic artwork that she has on display," she said.
EastSide Arts, which hosted the event, said: "EastSide Arts were not party to the attendee list and were not aware of who was attending the event. However, like all of our events, they are open to everyone, regardless of their political views.
"We are also aware that as the event was not widely publicised by EastSide Arts, local residents were unaware of the event and did not have the opportunity to attend.
"This was an oversight on our part for which we apologise."