Belfast Telegraph

Pictured: Sinn Fein MP Barry McElduff arrives in Belfast for leadership meeting - Party brand Kingsmill video tweet 'inexcusable and indefensible'

Take our poll - should Sinn Fein MP resign over video?

By Claire Williamson

Under pressure Sinn Fein MP Barry McElduff has arrived in Belfast to face the party leadership following his controversial social media post.

Controversy was sparked at the weekend following the West Tyrone MP's social media video which showed Mr McElduff with a Kingsmill loaf on his head on the anniversary of the massacre of 10 Protestant workers.

In the video, Mr McElduff is filmed walking around a shop with a Kingsmill loaf on his head, asking where the store kept the bread.

He has been summoned to a meeting with his party's leadership on Monday including Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill and party president Gerry Adams, at party offices in west Belfast.

When asked if he planned to resign, he said last night: "I'm in the eye of the storm and I can only dwell on the here and now because of the ferocity of it." He apologised "from the bottom of my heart" for the video.

Both unionist and nationalist politicians blasted Sinn Fein's handling of the controversy.

Speaking to the BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme Sinn Fein's national chairman Declan Kearney said there was "no defence or excuse for what had happened".

He said the party was taking it "very seriously" and had put in place an "internal party process".

He said: "I would like to express my own and Sinn Fein's very sincere regret for the very understandable offence caused as result of this tweet

"What happened is absolutely irresponsible. Barry McElduff has already made an unreserved apology and that was the correct thing to do in these circumstances. But the reality is huge offence has been caused and I and Sinn Fein strongly disapprove of what has happened."

West Tyrone MP Barry McElduff arriving at Sinn Fein's headquarters on the Falls Road in Belfast ahead of a meeting with party officials. Niall Carson/PA Wire
West Tyrone MP Barry McElduff arriving at Sinn Fein's headquarters on the Falls Road in Belfast ahead of a meeting with party officials. Niall Carson/PA Wire
Sinn Fein's Northern Ireland Leader Michelle O'Neill arrives at the party's headquarters on the Falls Road in Belfast ahead of a meeting with West Tyrone MP Barry McElduff. Niall Carson/PA Wire
Sinn Fein's Northern Ireland Leader Michelle O'Neill arrives at the party's headquarters on the Falls Road in Belfast ahead of a meeting with West Tyrone MP Barry McElduff. Niall Carson/PA Wire
Sinn Fein's Northern Ireland Leader Michelle O'Neill arrives at the party's headquarters on the Falls Road in Belfast ahead of a meeting with West Tyrone MP Barry McElduff. Niall Carson/PA Wire
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams leaving the party's headquarters on the Falls Road in Belfast where a meeting with West Tyrone MP Barry McElduff is taking place. : Niall Carson/PA Wire
Barry McElduff with a Kingsmill-branded loaf on his head

When asked whether Mr Elduff should stand down Mr Kearney said the party leadership was taking the matter "very seriously indeed".

He said: "What has happened is absolutely inexcusable and indefensible and the party leadership is taking this matter very seriously indeed

"As a result of that the party leadership in the north will be meeting with him later today to discuss the very serious fall out from this situation."

Mr Kearney said he spoke with Sinn Fein's Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill at the weekend and put in place arrangements for today's meeting.

He said: "That will be an opportunity for the party leadership in the north to record its very serious disapproval of what has happened and discuss the very serious fall out.

"Sinn Fein expects the highest standards of not only our members but our senior elected representatives. What has happened falls well short of those standards.

"It was inexcusable and indefensible and I've made it very clear that we are taking this matter very seriously.

"We have put in place an internal party process. I don't intent to publicly comment on that. I accept and Sinn Fein accepts that it has caused maximum hurt.

"It would be inappropriate for me to publicly comment on the nature of the process. There is a meeting scheduled for this afternoon."

He added: "Offence and hurt has been caused and that should not have happened. The speed in which the post was removed indicated he recognised his own significant error of judgement."

Sinn Fein MLA Mairtin O'Muilleoir retweeted the video at the time and has since offered an apology.

When asked about that Mr Kearney said: "Mairtin has offered an explanation for his actions and issued an apology".

He added: "We consider it to be a serious situation."

Meanwhile Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty said he didn't believe that Mr McElduff should resign over the video.

He told RTE: “The Kingsmill massacre was a terrible tragedy...and we should always be mindful of the families, and there’s no doubt but that this upset them terribly and it was a silly thing Barry McElduff did, but I don’t think he intended to hurt the families.

“I don’t think he should resign, I don’t think he did it to upset the families or draw attention the matter, it was just a stupid thing he did.  But he should have known better, as an MP, that that particular day (was the anniversary of the massacre) and that that was very important.”

Mr McElduff has offered to meet relatives of the sectarian outrage but a number of them, including the only survivor of the gun attack, Alan Black, have rejected the invitation outright.

The PSNI is examining the video after receiving a number of complaints, while the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards at Westminster has also been alerted.

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