Belfast Telegraph

McAliskey slams SF man as 'delusional' for his claim over civil rights movement

By Cate McCurry

Former MP Bernadette McAliskey branded a Sinn Fein MLA as "delusional" after he claimed republicans inspired the civil rights campaign.

Sinn Fein's national chairperson Declan Kearney said that decisions made by the IRA and Sinn Fein leadership helped form the civil rights movement 50 years ago.

But Mrs McAliskey, a civil rights veteran, hit out at the South Antrim MLA's comments, saying he was guilty of "silly rambling".

Writing on journalist Eamonn Mallie's website, Mr Kearney argued that mass protests in the late 1960s were "heavily influenced" by the republican leadership.

Speaking to BBC NI, Mr Kearney said: "Republicans were involved, Sinn Fein and IRA leaderships encouraged their activists to organise and to campaign under the umbrella of the civil rights alongside other democrats, other political activists, human rights activists, communists, trade unionists, and so the role of republicanism is central to the emergence of the civil rights movement along with many others."

Mrs McAliskey, who became the youngest woman elected to Westminster in 1969 at the age of 21, a record that remained until the 2015 general election, said that Mr Kearney's view had "very little basis in reality".

She told BBC NI: "I really don't have the political space in my head - and I don't think anyone should - to engage in the delusional silliness of individual ramblings that people have about the past."

When asked if she thought Mr Kearney was delusional, she replied: "Yes. Not a doubt about that.

"With respect, I think that the article that Declan Kearney wrote was delusional. And when I say that, it has very little basis in reality."

Former People Before Profit MLA Eamonn McCann also questioned Sinn Fein's recollection of events in the late 1960s.

He said: "I think Sinn Fein are trying to colonise history and attempting to portray themselves, and more importantly to portray the IRA, as a natural, inevitable outgrowth of the civil rights movement, which is certainly not true.

"There were other possibilities. They are also trying to portray that they instigated the civil rights movement."

Mr Kearney, however, denied that Sinn Fein was trying to claim ownership of the mass campaign.

He said: "I haven't said that the leading members of the civil rights movement at that point and time were exclusively IRA or Sinn Fein activists.

"What I have said is that the reality is that republican activists were involved directly with many, many others in the formation of the civil rights movement.

"When you look at it through a lens of historical objectivity, it (the civil rights movement) had multiple parents and gave birth to many children."

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