A Sinn Fein TD has apologised for an "inappropriate and insensitive" tweet about the murder of British soldiers.
Laois/Offaly TD Brian Stanley - who is chairman of the Dail’s Public Accounts Committee, wrote to his 3,700 followers: "Kilmicheal (sic) (1920) and Narrow Water (1979) the 2 IRA operations that taught the elite of (the) British army and the establishment the cost of occupying Ireland. Pity for everyone they were such slow learners.”
'Kilmichael' refers to an IRA ambush near Cork in 1920 in which 17 members of the Royal Irish Constabulary Auxiliary Division died, while 18 soldiers were killed in an IRA ambush at Narrow Water, near Warrenpoint, in 1979.
The TD's tweet received almost 500 ‘likes’ on the politician's social media page. It was later deleted.
After strong criticism from unionist politicians, Mr Stanley said in a statement on Sunday night: “I apologise for the content of an inappropriate and insensitive tweet I sent yesterday.”
A Sinn Fein spokesperson said: “We note that Brian Stanley has deleted a tweet that was inappropriate and insensitive, and that he has apologised.
“We all have a responsibility in this Decade of Centenaries to remember and commemorate the past in a respectful manner.”
DUP leader Arlene Foster said: "I will be writing to the Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil about this shameful tweet. Although deleted, it is outrageous that someone with such warped views can hold a senior position in the Dáil. SF talk about respect & equality but there’s not much sign of respect for victims."
The Ulster Unionist Party’s justice spokesperson Doug Beattie described the TD’s remarks as a perversion of history.
“These vile and reprehensible comments by Brian Stanley once again expose the fact that Sinn Fein are not a normal political party. On one hand they complain when people link them to the IRA but on the other they revel and gloat about IRA atrocities," Mr Beattie said.
“Sinn Fein offer a perversion of history and don’t spare a thought for the relatives who still grieve for the lost lives of their loved ones, murdered by the IRA. Unionists will not be surprised at these comments but some people who have been taken in by the notion that Sinn Fein have changed and who believe the hype and spin, might be.
“His comments confirm that there would be no place for those who identify as unionist or British in a United Ireland. There is no point in unionists engaging in a debate about it. If Mary Lou McDonald has any ounce of decency about her and any thought or consideration for grieving relatives, she will tell Brian Stanley to apologise for his disgusting comments and remove the tweet."
Mr Beattie is himself a former soldier and was awarded the Military Cross during his service in Afghanistan.
IRA terror victims also criticised the Sinn Fein TD.
Austin Stack, whose prison officer father Brian Stack was murdered by the IRA in 1984 said: “If any previous Chair of the PAC offered support for terrorist murder it would be a resigning matter. Provo movement are very quick to seek resignations - so let’s now see them ask Brian Stanley TD to resign."
I will be writing to the Ceann Comhairle of the DÃ¡il about this shameful tweet. Although deleted, it is outrageous that someone with such warped views can hold a senior position in the DÃ¡il. SF talk about respect & equality but thereâs not much sign of respect for victims. pic.twitter.com/dqMdWLI4rp— Arlene Foster #WeWillMeetAgain (@DUPleader) November 29, 2020
And Ann Travers, whose sister Mary was murdered - and her father wounded - in a 1984 IRA ambush after they attended Mass in south Belfast, said: “What on earth???!!!! What a vile horrible tweet , with no thought for parents, children, or family and friends grieving."
Victims campaigner Kenny Donaldson said: “These comments from one of the new crop of Sinn Fein, elected a TD in 2020, illustrates that absolutely nothing has changed within the mindset of their representatives”.
“In Kilmichael 100 years ago and in Narrow Water 41 years ago the IRA with premeditated and cowardly intent committed mass murder, in both attacks 19 men died, 16 innocents were murdered in Kilmichael and 18 in Narrow Water with a 19th innocent dying as a result of the shooting crossfire”.
“For a Sinn Fein TD to continue to eulogise these events in 2020 is depraved and sickening and highly insulting to the families broken by these heinous events, particularly the latter Narrow Water massacre where first and second generation relatives are still alive as well as many of the surviving injured”.
“There is no place in this Society (north or south of the border) for the glorification and romanticisation of terrorism. All eyes are on the Sinn Fein leadership in how they respond. Do they condone Brian Stanley’s remarks, will they simply turn the other way and pretend they haven’t heard the remarks or will they actually deal with it?” he asked.