Belfast Telegraph

Seeing Sean Kelly on campaign trail hurts victims, says Alan McBride who lost wife in the Shankill bomb

Alan McBride Co-ordinator in the Wave trauma centre.
Alan McBride Co-ordinator in the Wave trauma centre.
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

Leading victims' campaigner Alan McBride has said Northern Ireland's political parties need to be more sensitive to the hurt caused by using convicted terrorists in their election campaigns.

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Mr McBride, who lost his wife Sharon in the Shankill bomb, was speaking as Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald rejected DUP criticism of notorious IRA bomber Sean Kelly working as a party canvasser in North Belfast.

Speaking ahead of her party conference at the weekend, Ms McDonald insisted Kelly, who was convicted for his part in the 1993 bomb, was a supporter of the peace process and had expressed regret over the attack on the fish shop, which killed nine Protestants.

Ms McDonald also accused the DUP of forming electoral alliances with active loyalist paramilitaries.

"I won't take a homily from the DUP around Sean Kelly or anybody else, given the alliances that they are drawing from and given the platforms that they are sitting on," she said.

"It's the height of hypocrisy for the DUP to be on platforms with active loyalist paramilitaries involved in all kinds of criminality and then to cast up a story around an individual who they know full well has backed - solidly backed - the peace over the last two decades."

But Mr McBride said: "The fact that Sean Kelly is canvassing for Sinn Fein was always going to cause distress to the families of those he murdered.

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"As an infamous bomber who murdered nine people, he is not the best choice of person to be canvassing.

"I would much prefer if Sinn Fein didn't use the likes of Sean Kelly."

He added, however, that he took exception to parties adopting what he called "a puritanical stance" on the issue.

John Finucane, Mary Lou McDonald, Michelle O’Neill and Michelle Gildernew
John Finucane, Mary Lou McDonald, Michelle O’Neill and Michelle Gildernew

"There is a lot of hypocrisy here all over the camp. Political parties need to be sensitive," Mr McBride said.

"The DUP have themselves cosied up to loyalist paramilitaries for years.

"In an ideal world, no political party would be using anybody convicted of a terrorist-related atrocity because of the hurt that would cause to families."

This year is not the first time that Kelly (right) has been seen on the election trail for Sinn Fein. He was pictured canvassing for the party prior to this year's local council elections and he also took part during the build-up to the 2017 general election.

Ms McDonald acknowledged that there would be people in the Shankill who would be genuinely upset by Kelly's involvement. "I would say to those that are genuinely upset or troubled by that to bear in mind that Sean has stood four-square with the peace process now for more than 20 years and that Sean has personally articulated his regret in respect of the Shankill bomb," she said.

The Sinn Fein president said an element of the controversy had been contrived by the DUP.

Sean Kelly
Sean Kelly

"I think it's important for all of us that we don't walk ourselves into cul-de-sacs around the past that can't really afford any comfort or resolution for victims and survivors - they just become party political platforms for people to have a go," she said.

"I don't think there's any value in that.

"I'm not going to take a lecture from anybody in the DUP and I'd advise them to look in the mirror before pointing the finger at others."

Responding to Ms McDonald's comments, the DUP accused her of "trying to rewrite history".

A spokesman said: "Sinn Fein continues to glorify and justify the murder and mayhem of IRA almost every weekend. Terrorism was never justified. We condemn all paramilitaries.

"On election day people can reject the rewriting of the past.

"Mary Lou McDonald is trying to distract from the fact Sinn Fein MPs are going to doors empty-handed, having delivered nothing but chaos, compared to the DUP having delivered £1.5bn for hospitals, schools, broadband and roads."

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