Belfast Telegraph

Watch: Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald refuses to condemn IRA murder bid on Arlene Foster's father

Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald refused to condemn an IRA attempt on the life of DUP leader Arlene Foster's father.

Speaking at a Stormont press conference on Thursday, Mrs McDonald accused the DUP of engaging in "whataboutery" over the issue.

Prior to the press conference the party met with Secretary of State Julian Smith to discuss restoring power-sharing at Stormont.

The Sinn Fein leader also rejected claims that the election of the party's deputy leader has been shrouded in secrecy.

Asked if she would condemn the past IRA murder attempts the Sinn Fein leader said that next month's General Election was "about the future, not the past".

When discussing loyalist banners targeting Sinn Fein Lord Mayor John Finucane, Mrs Foster had called on Sinn Fein condemn the attack on her father, John Kelly, at the family's farm in Co Fermanagh in 1979. The policeman survived despite being shot in the head.

Sinn Fein had also been asked to condemn an IRA attempt on the life of DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds while he visited his ill son in hospital in 1996.

"I think Arlene Foster and all of the DUP should be unequivocal and shouldn't engage in any form of whataboutery in terms of these banners," the Sinn Fein leader said.

"In the course of the conflict very, very many people were hurt and I regret all of that. If I wrote the history books it wouldn't look like this."

Mrs McDonald said that banners aimed at North Belfast election candidate Mr Finucane and his family were "menacing" and "clearly articulate a threat" to him.

Pressed on Michelle O'Neill's victory over John O'Dowd for the party's vice-presidency the Sinn Fein leader said that there was "absolutely no secrecy around anything"

She said that "unlike other parties" Sinn Fein's leadership was democratically elected.

"We've had our ard fheis and the delegates have had their say," Mrs McDonald told the press conference.

"It is not the practice to publish figures, the result is known. The process was an internal one and it's now concluded."

She said she hoped that the upcoming election would proceed in a way that demonstrates "more civility and calm".

The Dublin Central TD said that whether the DUP liked it or not the election was about Brexit.

Mrs McDonald reiterated the party's stance that it was time convene a All-Ireland forum to prepare for Irish unity.

"We believe those conversations need to happen now, it's irresponsible of other political leaders to imagine that they can bury their head in the sand and not have the conversation about the future of this island," she said.

"One of the lessons we should have learned from Brexit is that the failure to have that all of society conversation really had a very, very high cost for them."

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Gavin Robinson

On Thursday DUP Westminster candidate Gavin Robinson said that Sinn Fein were "like a broken record" on Irish unity.

"They need to catch up with the majority of people in Northern Ireland who care deeply about the constitutional settlement but also care about the state of their hospitals and schools," the East Belfast candidate said.

"Sinn Fein say they have a plan for a united Ireland – its more like a plan to destroy our public services. 'The Economic Effect of an All-Ireland Economy” report indicated that 50,000 public sector jobs would have to be cut."

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