Unionists slam Anderson for her 'Brits Out' message at Sinn Fein rally
Sinn Fein has been accused by the DUP of sending a 'Brits Out' message that tells unionists in Northern Ireland that they are to be "removed rather than accommodated".
The DUP's Diane Dodds condemned a speech by fellow MEP Martina Anderson of Sinn Fein at a hunger strike rally at the weekend in which she told the British Government that its "days in Ireland are numbered" and ended with the slogan "Tiocfaidh ar la".
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald and her deputy Michelle O'Neill attended the event in Strabane along with former party president Gerry Adams.
Mrs Dodds said: "Martina Anderson's speech in Strabane is another clear example of what Sinn Fein's vision for the future is.
"Mary Lou McDonald eventually apologised for marching behind an 'England get out of Ireland' banner, yet four months later she was sat behind Martina Anderson in Strabane applauding the same message.
"The 2019 'Brits Out' message is not a message just for the UK Government, any more than bombing the heart of Strabane and killing a five-month-old child was a message to the UK Government in 1972.
"Both of these were very direct messages to the people of Northern Ireland who are British and wish to maintain their British identity about how Sinn Fein views them."
Mrs Dodds said Sinn Fein had made clear it saw no place for the Union flag, the royal family, or British armed forces, including cadets, in its vision for the future.
"With no tolerance for British symbolism or British culture in Northern Ireland, why should anyone believe Sinn Fein will tolerate the real British presence here - all those people in Northern Ireland who wish to remain part of the UK?" she asked.
"Ultimately that is the real message delivered by Martina Anderson and endorsed by the watching leadership of her party."
Mrs Dodds said the commemoration "and Martina Anderson's message was just another demonstration from their former director of unionist outreach that Sinn Fein view Britishness as something to be removed rather than accommodated".
Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said that Sinn Fein's "mask had slipped".
He said: "Despite Sinn Fein attempts to persuade us of how wonderful life would be in some future united Ireland, it came as no surprise to see Martina Anderson deliver yet another bitter rant at the weekend and end it with no less than three 'Tiocfaidh ar las' at a commemoration for dead terrorists.
"Sinn Fein spend a lot of time talking about rights, respect and equality, and indeed they may even manage to fool some people into thinking they mean some of the rhetoric.
"But the mask always slips; with comments like those from Mary Lou McDonald, Martina Anderson and, of course, Gerry Adams, who once described unionists as 'these b*******' and vowed to use equality as a Trojan horse to break them."
Mr Swann claimed that the "divisive and racist mentality of 'Brits Out'" was alive and well in Sinn Fein.
"The supreme irony is that the IRA's terrorist campaign did more to set back north-south relations than any land border ever could and, as long as Martina Anderson is given air time, there is no danger of unionists ever forgetting the damage done by violent republican fanatics," he added.
UUP MLA Doug Beattie branded the speech "utter rhetoric garbage". He tweeted: "It's a Sinn Fein message that echoes a time they supported bombs on our roads and bridges, when people were used as disposable commodities, driving a wedge between communities.
"You'll not lead us backwards with your scavenger policies."
The Alliance Party urged the Sinn Fein MEP to apologise. South Antrim MLA John Blair said: "These are deeply unhelpful comments from Martina Anderson that will do nothing but divide our society further.
"For anyone in our society who identifies as British and who is told by Sinn Fein they will be welcome in a united Ireland, this speech will be seen as nothing but offensive and hyperbolic rhetoric. For others, they will see this as inflammatory language which will not help the talks to restore the Assembly."
Mr Blair added: "People have a right to remember their dead respectfully but this was not that. This will have done nothing to move our community forward or heal the hurt felt by so many across all sections of our society.
"Martina Anderson needs to show more respect and display leadership, stepping away from verbal outbursts designed to aid confrontation and recall years of conflict. She should apologise and recognise the hurt her comments will have caused."
Ms Anderson had told the crowd at the commemoration: "I have an Irish republican message for the British Prime Minister.
"Don't think we have suffered your oppression, your state killings and assassinations for decades; don't think we've come this far to fall foul of Britannic jingoism; don't think because you don't like immigrants, don't think that you can make us collateral for your unsavoury 'Little Englander' attitudes.
"You will not be closing our roads. You will not be blocking our bridges.
"You will not be reinforcing partition by further dividing Down from Louth; Armagh from Monaghan; Fermanagh from Cavan, Derry and Tyrone from Donegal," she added.