Sinn Fein urged to move on from 'violent past' as MP McCallion praises IRA volunteers
A new Sinn Fein MP has caused outrage after stating that the spirit and memory of dead IRA volunteers is with her and her party colleagues in "every meeting and every engagement" at Stormont, Westminster, the European Parliament and the Dail in Dublin.
Foyle MP Elisha McCallion was speaking at the annual Derry volunteers commemoration, which saw hundreds of republicans gather at Londonderry's city cemetery to pay tribute to IRA members.
Mrs McCallion said she "remembered with pride the huge contribution they made in our struggle" and that their "dedication, courage and their sacrifice is an inspiration to us and certainly to me".
It came just a day after Gerry Adams told a Sinn Fein conference that republicans needed to "embrace" a new approach to unionism "and of the positive contribution they have made to society".
Mrs McCallion said that republicans have been on a long journey to a final destination, to realise a republic and a society for which "our great friends died".
She said that republicans "carry their memory and their inspiration with us each and every step of the way as we continue on in our struggle".
She also remembered Martin McGuinness as a "freedom fighter" who "fought for justice and equality" and said that he was guiding republicans to "a new reconciled, united and free Ireland".
She admitted that there were political challenges ahead on the road but that republicans would "draw strength and inspiration from the memories of the dead IRA volunteers and carried their spirit and memories with them".
"We as republicans are up for those challenges," she said. "And just like the volunteers we remember here today, we will not shy away from our efforts.
"We will continue to oppose austerity, in the north and south, to oppose Tory Brexit agendas, we are opposed to borders hard or soft and we will continue to work tirelessly for Irish unity.
"In that task, I and my colleagues will continue to draw inspiration from the commitment of all of those republicans who we commemorate here today.
"In every meeting, in every engagement whether in Belfast, Brussels, London or Dublin their memory lives on in each and every one of us. As we leave this graveyard today let's rededicate ourselves to achieving the Ireland that many of our friends have died for. Every one of us has a part to play."
Lagan Valley DUP MP, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, said that Mrs McCallion's rhetoric did nothing for the peace process and questioned if every time Sinn Fein met with the Prime Minister they are "bringing a murderous spirit" with them.
"The memory and spirit of the IRA for tens of thousands of victims in Northern Ireland is one of bloodshed and murder," he said.
"And I really do think that it is time that Sinn Fein moved on from their violent past. Constantly harking back to the violence of the IRA does nothing to strengthen the peace process and infact only serves to undermine confidence in and support for the peace process.
"The IRA tried to murder the British Prime Minister on a number of occasions during the Troubles and if Elisha McCallion is suggesting that every time they meet the Prime Minister in Downing Street they are bringing that violent, murderous spirit with them to that meeting then that will cause a lot of offence to a lot of people, not just in the United Kingdom and elsewhere."
On Saturday, Sinn Fein leader Mr Adams told a party conference on the constitutional question in Belfast that nationalists and republ icans need to adopt a new approach to convince unionists of the merits of uniting Ireland.
He also predicted a successful vote to end partition could come within a "few short years".
However, he said that outcome would only be achieved if unionist opposition was "unlocked".
He said republicans needed to advance more than just an economic case to end partition.
"We need a new approach, one which unlocks unionist opposition to a new Ireland by reminding them of their historic place here and of the positive contribution they have made to society on this island," Mr Adams said.
"Instead of concentrating on the negative aspects of our four centuries of shared history I suggest that we embrace the areas of agreement and of co-operation; of good neighbourliness and the common good.
"A truly united Ireland will emerge from the reconciliation of the people of this island based on equality."