Belfast Telegraph

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

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."

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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