Belfast Telegraph

McElduff Kingsmill video: Sinn Fein sanction meaningless and victims feel an insult to injury, says DUP's Foster

By Jonathan Bell

Arlene Foster said Sinn Fein's suspension of Barry McElduff over his controversial Kingsmill video was "meaningless".

The DUP leader said she was with families of those killed in the Kingsmill massacre 42 years ago when Sinn Fein released the news of the suspension for Mr McElduff.

The West Tyrone MP has been suspended from all party activity for three months but will continue to draw down his salary.

"Nobody can objectively say this was an innocent thing to do," Arlene Foster told the BBC.

"I was actually with the victims when the news of this so-called sanction came through. They feel it adds insult to injury.

"Three months suspension on an MP who doesn't go to Westminster is entirely meaningless."

She added: "It's pathetic and Sinn Fein should reflect on it tonight."

MP Emma Little Pengelly said the sanction amounted to a "holiday". She said the meaning behind the video had yet to be explained.

A disgusting decision. Robin Swann, UUP

Barry McElduff sparked controversy when he posed in a petrol station with a loaf of Kingsmill on his head on the anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre. Sinn Fein described the West Tryone MP's actions as "inexcusable" ahead of handing down the three-month suspension.

UUP leader Robin Swann said Sinn Fein had "failed the ultimate test" by not sacking Mr McElduff.

He said: "The decision by Sinn Fein to suspend Barry McElduff for three months displays staggering and breath-taking contempt for the IRA's Kingsmills victims and their families. 

"It is absolutely clear that Sinn Fein will put the party before the people and that they are more interested in preserving the kudos and standing of Barry McElduff being an MP than doing the right thing and seeing him resign. He is clearly unfit to hold public office.

“This is a disgusting decision that demonstrates their so called rights, equality and respect agenda is nothing more than hollow rhetoric.

“It clearly shows that the words of Declan Kearney, the Sinn Fein National Chairman, hold no water when he said that the comments and actions of McElduff were offensive and indefensible because Sinn Fein have clearly defended those words by imposing such a lamentable sanction.

“Never again let Sinn Fein lecture anyone on respect, equality, rights or sectarianism in this society. The mask slipped over the weekend and revealed that they are still a nasty party at heart."

SDLP leader Column Eastwood described the move as "weak leadership", adding: "Sinn Fein has been desperately firefighting a PR storm - it hasn’t been about enforcing proper discipline. It most definitely hasn’t been about addressing the hurt caused to the Kingsmill victims and their families.

"In one of its first tests, it is clear the new Sinn Fein leadership hasn’t had the authority to do the right thing.

"There remains no full explanation from Sinn Fein as to what the point of the original post was and what explanation Barry McElduff offered this afternoon.  

"People across the North will genuinely struggle to figure out what the actual punishment has been for Barry McElduff. As of now Barry McElduff remains an abstentionist MP, who remains on full pay. The only sanction the Sinn Fein leadership has seen fit to hand down to Barry McElduff is that he is now suspended from attending Sinn Fein meetings for the next three months."

He added: "The events of the last number of days have raised a deeper issue on how all of us in political life deal with our past.

"The provisional republican movement has never expressed full remorse for the specific murders it was involved in, including those at Kingsmill. That is a reality Sinn Fein has never faced up to.

"It is why their public pronouncements about reconciliation have always fallen short and have never gained trust amongst very decent people in the unionist community.

"After a week where the task of reconciliation has once more been undermined, I would again call on the Sinn Fein leadership to ease the hurt caused to these victims by finally apologising for the Kingsmill Massacre.”

Sinn Fein suspension of McElduff will be seen as weak. Naomi Long, Alliance

Alliance leader Naomi Long described the sanction as "weak" after the party had "raised expectations" with an earlier statement of "strong condemnation".

She said: “I think this entire sorry episode has highlighted yet again our abject failure as a society to deal with victims with respect and treat families and survivors with dignity.  Sadly, it is not an isolated incident, either in politics or in our community, where the hurt and pain of grieving families are often compounded by callous and disrespectful words and actions, which fly in the face of human decency.

“If anything valuable is to be salvaged from the last few days, we now need to reflect collectively on how we will address our past and those most directly affected by it with integrity and compassion, and find a way to co-exist which ensures there will be no repeat either of this behaviour or of that which led to the creation of victims in the first place.”

Green Party Leader Steven Agnew welcomed the action taken by Sinn Fein and said it would be the families of victims who would decide whether it was "sufficient".

He said: “This was a horrendous thing to have done. It was very hurtful from a representative of a party that says it is committed to respect and it caused a lot of upset.

“I welcome the fact that action has been taken by Sinn Fein, but it is the families who will decide whether this action is sufficient.”

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