Belfast Telegraph

Poll: Should Sinn Fein's O Muilleoir stand down? Pressure mounts on MLA in wake of McElduff resignation

By Claire O'Boyle and Rebecca Black

Mairtin O Muilleoir should follow Barry McElduff and stand down from his senior Sinn Fein position, Jim Allister has said.

Mr McElduff finally resigned as West Tyrone MP yesterday after he caused outrage by posing with a Kingsmill-branded loaf on his head on the 42nd anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre on January 5.

More than 38,500 people had signed an online petition calling on Mr McElduff to quit.

South Belfast MLA Mr O Muilleoir had retweeted the offending video, although he later apologised and retracted the retweet.

TUV leader Mr Allister welcomed Mr McElduff's resignation, but said Sinn Fein had been backed into a corner - and needed to go a step further by sacking former finance minister Mr O Muilleoir as well.

He said: "The harrowing but dignified comments of victims, especially those of the sole survivor of the massacre, Alan Black, have forced this.

"The potential for electoral damage to Sinn Fein, particularly south of the border, was clear.

"Sinn Fein thought that this would blow over but victims ensured that was impossible. Now, in an attempt at damage limitation McElduff has been pushed."

Mr Allister said following Mr McElduff's decision, it was only right for Mr O Muilleoir to resign as an Assembly member too.

"Though McElduff has belatedly done the right thing, what about Mairtin O Muilleoir who thought it appropriate to approvingly retweet the video?" he asked.

"If it is right for McElduff to resign - and it is - then let sincerity, not expediency, be demonstrated by O'Muilleoir following suit."

Mr O Muilleoir apologised for his part in the stunt last week, saying he saw Mr McElduff's tweet as being wholly apolitical and retweeted it on that basis.

The party said yesterday it had accepted Mr O Muilleoir's explanation, and felt no other action was needed.

Mr McElduff's decision followed a week of bitter recrimination which saw the West Tyrone MP widely condemned for his video stunt. He had been accused of mocking the Kingsmill massacre victims on the anniversary of the IRA murders of the 10 Protestant workmen in south Armagh.

Mr McElduff said: "Had I been conscious of the connection to the terrible atrocity at Kingsmill I would certainly not have posted that tweet.

"I genuinely did not make that connection, not for a second did I make that connection in my mind."

DUP leader Arlene Foster said it was time for Sinn Fein "to learn the lessons from these dark events and to deal with the fact that it, and many of its individual members, continue to publicly glorify the murderous deeds of the past".

Meanwhile, at a Sinn Fein press conference at its Falls Road headquarters, only selected broadcasters and the Press Association were permitted to question the party's northern leader, Michelle O'Neill.

The party had extended an invitation to "all media" to attend the meeting outside.

Ms O'Neill, flanked by party faithful including West Belfast MP Paul Maskey and Irish Senator Niall O Donnghaile, explained that Mr McElduff had taken the decision because of the "unintended hurt" caused to all those affected by the atrocity.

"Barry recognises that this controversy and his continuing role in public office is compounded by the stress caused to the families and victims of Kingsmill," she said. "And he again offers his profound apologies for the unintended hurt that has been caused to both the Kingsmill families but also the wider victims community."

Asked about Mr O Muilleoir's future in the party, she said: "I spoke with Mairtin and he needs to consider his social media use, he needs to be more responsible in his social media use and that is the matter dealt with."

Yesterday's resignation means there will be a by-election in West Tyrone, where last year Mr McElduff secured more than 50% of the vote.

Belfast Telegraph

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