Ongoing justification of IRA galling: Arlene Foster
DUP leader slams Sinn Fein stance on violence
DUP leader Arlene Foster has said republicanism's continuing justification of the IRA's terror campaign 20 years on from the Good Friday Agreement has let the public down.
Writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, the former First Minister said that while the Agreement was endorsed by practically all of nationalist Ireland, at best half of unionism supported it.
While admitting Northern Ireland "is an entirely different and a much safer place", she said some unionists might have been right in believing that Sinn Fein "didn't want Stormont to work" when the Agreement was signed.
"Efforts to justify the terrorism continue, whether it's Gerry Adams to the international media or speakers addressing republican commemorations," she said.
"There was never the justification for taking human life.
"That message of non-violence should have been then, and must be today, clear and unequivocal. Otherwise we risk impressionable young people and those who would exploit them seeking to claim some element of cover to replicate those actions and 'continue the struggle'."
Mrs Foster also expressed disappointment over Sinn Fein's support for the naming of a Newry play park after IRA gunman and hunger striker Raymond McCreesh. "No one would have imagined that in 2018 play parks and banners could eulogise an individual arrested with the weapon which killed 10 men in cold-blooded sectarianism at Kingsmill," she said.
"Sinn Fein-dominated councils block Armed Forces recruitment events, the sale of poppies and the Union Flag flying for even a few days, and their mayors snub members of the royal family and refuse to present awards to teenagers in the cadet forces.
"An independent three-person panel finding that the Army Council still runs the Provisional IRA and Sinn Fein was deeply depressing.
"Paramilitary-linked groups continue to exert control on communities but work we instigated is seeking to change this and promote lawfulness.
"Victims are mocked. The consent principle is ignored when it doesn't suit. Even our actual name, Northern Ireland, is disrespected.
"Reconciliation has been limited, and attitudes have hardened since the tearing down of the Executive by Sinn Fein.
"The same question still remains for republicans. Do they genuinely want to make Northern Ireland work?"
But Mrs Foster - who is due to give evidence to the inquiry into the Renewable Heat Incentive, which led to Stormont's collapse - remains convinced that the Executive can get back up and running.
"We have overcome much greater challenges and I am confident we will overcome the present one too," the DUP leader said.
"If we begin to genuinely respect each other and our different outlooks, then we can achieve a settled community in a way we haven't experienced before."