Belfast Telegraph

Poll: Is three-month suspension from Sinn Fein with full pay adequate for Barry McElduff?

Sinn Fein MP for West Tyrone Barry McElduff leaves the party's office on the Falls Road in west Belfast following a meeting where he was suspended for three month following a twitter post. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Sinn Fein MP for West Tyrone Barry McElduff leaves the party's office on the Falls Road in west Belfast following a meeting where he was suspended for three month following a twitter post. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
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
Photo from the Twitter feed of Sinn Fein MP Barry McElduff showing him with a Kingsmill-branded loaf on his head on the anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre (Twitter/PA)

By Claire Williamson and Jonathan Bell

Sinn Fein MP Barry McElduff has been suspended on full pay by his party for three months over his Kingsmill video tweet.

Pressure has been building on the party and the West Tyrone MP after he posted a video on social media with a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head on the anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre.

He was summoned to a meeting of the senior Sinn Fein leadership on Monday morning.

Following the meeting, Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill apologised to the Kingsmill families, saying the video was not that expected of a Sinn Fein member but Mr McElduff's actions were not "malicious or intended to cause the hurt or pain which they did".

The MLA said Mr McElduff had done the right thing in apologising and accepting the period of suspension from the party. Explaining his suspension she said he was paid through the party's resources which would continue during his suspension.

She said: "He has been suspended as a party member for three months but he also has mandate for the people of West Tyrone and will continue to represent them in that way."

A Sinn Fein spokesman said the suspension meant he was excluded from all party activity including meetings, assemblies and delegations to Westminster for example and will also miss the special Ard Fheis at the end of February which will see Gerry Adams successor as president elected.

All Sinn Fein elected representatives are paid direct by the party and receive an "average wage" with the rest going into party funds, the spokesman said he could not state what the exact figure was for "HR reasons".

After the meeting and in a statement, Mr McElduff said: "Although I genuinely meant no offence, I accept that my actions were ill-judged and, while unintended, caused deep and unnecessary hurt and pain to the Kingsmill families.

"I apologise unreservedly for this.

"In recognising the serious consequences of my actions, I fully accept the party’s decision to suspend me from all party activity for a period of three months.

Speaking to the press, Ms O'Neill added: "I made it clear to Barry that his tweet was ill-judged, indefensible and caused hurt and pain to the victims of Kingsmill. That it falls far short of the standard expected of Sinn Fein representatives and our members.

"Barry has again apologised for the unintended hurt which his tweet caused. He deeply regrets making such a post, and he accepts he has made an error of judgement.

"I don’t believe that Barry’s actions were calculated or deliberately intended to be malicious.

"However, given the seriousness of the issue, I have suspended Barry with immediate effect for a period of three months.

"Barry accepts this suspension as an appropriate response to his social media activity.

"To the Kingsmill families I recognise the hurt this has caused and I wholeheartedly apologise for any distress."

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 was 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.

Speaking earlier 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: "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.

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

"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."

Families of murdered workmen attend an evening service in 1976 as six coffins of IRA victims are brought to church in Bessbrook the night before the funerals of those killed in the Provisional IRA's infamous sectarian Whitecross (Kingsmill) Massacre. The IRA lined up the occupants of a workers minibus carrying 11 protestants and one catholic, before releasing the catholic man and mowing down the 10 protestant workmen, leaving the critically injured Mr Alan Black for dead. Alan Lewis Photopress
Families of murdered workmen attend an evening service in 1976 as six coffins of IRA victims are brought to church in Bessbrook the night before the funerals of those killed in the Provisional IRA's infamous sectarian Whitecross (Kingsmill) Massacre. The IRA lined up the occupants of a workers minibus carrying 11 protestants and one catholic, before releasing the catholic man and mowing down the 10 protestant workmen, leaving the critically injured Mr Alan Black for dead. Alan Lewis Photopress
The victims of the Kingsmill massacre (clockwise from top left): Robert Chambers; John Bryans; Joseph Lemmon; James McWhirter; Robert Freeburn; Robert Walker; Reginald Chapman; Kenneth Worton; John McConville and Walter Chapman
Kimgsmill massacre aftermath
Walter Chapman
John McConville
Kenneth Worton
Reginald Chapman
Robert Walker
Robert Freeburn
James McWhirter
Joseph Lemmon
John Bryans
Robert Chambers
The funeral service for five victims of the Kingsmills massacre at the Presbyterian church grounds in Bessbrook
Alan Black was shot 18 times but survived the Kingsmills massacre
Alan Black in hospital after the IRA shot him and killed 10 of his colleagues at Kingsmills
Alan Black:Survivor of the Kingsmill, Armagh, Massacre/Shooting, when he was shot with his 10 workmates in an ambushon their way home from work by gunmen. Pictured at the Kingsmill Memorial monument. 4/1/1981
A man lays a wreath at the Kingsmill memorial in South Armagh (PA)
People attend a roadside service marking the 42nd anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre (Brian Lawless/PA)
Karen Armstrong holds a photograph of her brother John McConville, who was killed in the Kingsmill attack
Sisters Cathy Michale, Colleen McKenna and Eileen Reavey unveil the monument to commemorate their brothers in Whitecross, Armagh
The crowd assembled at the service of remembrance for the victims held at the Town Hall in Bessbrook yesterday to mark the 40th anniversary of the atrocity

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."

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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