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McElduff took days off school as a boy to attend funerals of IRA hunger strikers

Sinn Fein’s West Tyrone MP has defended the right of republicans to remember their own victims of violence before his Kingsmill tweet controversy.

Barry McElduff once said there should be no hierarchy of victims of the Northern Ireland conflict.

As a schoolboy he took days off to attend the 1981 funerals of IRA hunger strikers.

Sinn Fein’s West Tyrone MP has defended the right of republicans to remember their own victims of violence or “patriot dead”, including two IRA men killed by their own bomb in his native Co Tyrone.

He added: “We all should have the opportunity to remember our dead.”

The married father-of-three, 51, fell foul of what his own party said was “inexcusable” behaviour after tweeting a video posing with a Kingsmill loaf on the 42nd anniversary of the massacre of the same name.

Ten innocent Protestant workmen were killed in the sectarian shooting by republicans on a rural road in South Armagh.

Mr McElduff apologised and said he did not realise there could be a possible link between the bread brand and the anniversary.

He lives in the village of Carrickmore and represents an area including the market town of Omagh.

In 1998 29 people died in a dissident republican car bomb in the town, including Michael Gallagher’s son Aiden.

Mr Gallagher said: “It was just incalculable that a person of that intelligence and standing in the community would engage in such irrational behaviour, it is just difficult to understand.”

Families of murdered workmen attend an evening service in 1976 as six coffins of IRA victims are brought to church in Bessbrook the night before the funerals of those killed in the Provisional IRA's infamous sectarian Whitecross (Kingsmill) Massacre. The IRA lined up the occupants of a workers minibus carrying 11 protestants and one catholic, before releasing the catholic man and mowing down the 10 protestant workmen, leaving the critically injured Mr Alan Black for dead. Alan Lewis Photopress
Families of murdered workmen attend an evening service in 1976 as six coffins of IRA victims are brought to church in Bessbrook the night before the funerals of those killed in the Provisional IRA's infamous sectarian Whitecross (Kingsmill) Massacre. The IRA lined up the occupants of a workers minibus carrying 11 protestants and one catholic, before releasing the catholic man and mowing down the 10 protestant workmen, leaving the critically injured Mr Alan Black for dead. Alan Lewis Photopress
The victims of the Kingsmill massacre (clockwise from top left): Robert Chambers; John Bryans; Joseph Lemmon; James McWhirter; Robert Freeburn; Robert Walker; Reginald Chapman; Kenneth Worton; John McConville and Walter Chapman
Kimgsmill massacre aftermath
Walter Chapman
John McConville
Kenneth Worton
Reginald Chapman
Robert Walker
Robert Freeburn
James McWhirter
Joseph Lemmon
John Bryans
Robert Chambers
The funeral service for five victims of the Kingsmills massacre at the Presbyterian church grounds in Bessbrook
Alan Black was shot 18 times but survived the Kingsmills massacre
Alan Black in hospital after the IRA shot him and killed 10 of his colleagues at Kingsmills
Alan Black:Survivor of the Kingsmill, Armagh, Massacre/Shooting, when he was shot with his 10 workmates in an ambushon their way home from work by gunmen. Pictured at the Kingsmill Memorial monument. 4/1/1981
A man lays a wreath at the Kingsmill memorial in South Armagh (PA)
People attend a roadside service marking the 42nd anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre (Brian Lawless/PA)
Karen Armstrong holds a photograph of her brother John McConville, who was killed in the Kingsmill attack
Sisters Cathy Michale, Colleen McKenna and Eileen Reavey unveil the monument to commemorate their brothers in Whitecross, Armagh
The crowd assembled at the service of remembrance for the victims held at the Town Hall in Bessbrook yesterday to mark the 40th anniversary of the atrocity

He added: “These things should never be brought down to party politics, it is a question of getting answers for the people who have suffered.”

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Omagh bomb hearing

Mr McElduff was steeped in republicanism from a young age, speaking of his pride after taking the day off school to attend the funeral of IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh.

He said: “The level of his commitment and sacrifice is difficult to comprehend.”

After a local council controversially named a play park after McCreesh, Mr McElduff said he was a hero.

He said: “There are Irish people in possession of Nobel Prizes for their various contributions.

“As far as I am concerned, Raymond McCreesh would be more deserving of international recognition than many of the past recipients.”

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