Belfast Telegraph

After all the lectures on respect, many will be watching what Sinn Fein leadership do now

Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

Barry McElduff's Kingsmill video is a disaster for a party which never tires of lecturing everybody else on equality and respect.

The West Tyrone MP has been summoned to a meeting with the Sinn Fein leadership today and all eyes will be on how the top brass deal with the situation.

They will be looking to take the heat out of a story which has made headlines across these islands. It's not just the usual unionist suspects outraged.

When someone like the normally apolitical Carl Frampton intervenes to brand the incident "disgraceful and shameful", the Shinners know they're facing a major problem.

There have been countless calls for McElduff's resignation. He has been an MP for only six months and the party hardly wants a by-election. He is also a popular figure with local nationalists increasing Sinn Fein's vote by 7% to 51% in last June's poll.

Forcing him to step down against his will could lead to internal tensions given that he's well-liked by colleagues.

At the very least, I expect a more extensive apology from him today and strong words from the Sinn Fein leadership.

Sign In

There was a suggestion last night that the controversy has implications for restoring power-sharing. In an apparent hardening of the DUP position, MP Sammy Wilson said McElduff had "shown once again why Sinn Fein aren't fit to be let through the doors of Stormont, let alone into government".

But given that the DUP remained in government with Sinn Fein despite the 2007 IRA murder of Paul Quinn and the 2015 killing of Kevin McGuigan, it's unlikely to not do business with republicans over a video.

Grassroots unionists, however, already furious at Sinn Fein for refusing to form an Executive, will have their belief reinforced that beneath the smiles and soft words of the party's politicians today, they aren't to be trusted.

A recording of Gerry Adams in Fermanagh three years ago discussing the need to "break these bastards" hardly helped. McElduff's video will be seen as another case of the mask slipping.

Unless the party deals comprehensively with the issue now, any time in future that its representatives a ttempt to take the moral high ground alleging unionist idiocy or intransigence, the Kingsmill episode will be raised.

Had a DUP politician appeared with an Ormo loaf on their head on the day of the anniversary of the Ormeau Road bookies massacre, Sinn Fein supporters would have been all over the issue on social media and ordinary nationalists would have believed the worst of the individual. That reflects the toxic nature of Northern Ireland politics.

Knowing Barry McElduff many years, I don't believe he was gloating at the Kingsmill massacre, mocking the victims, or acting maliciously. It makes no logical sense for him to have posted the video about an atrocity which even staunch republicans are ashamed of.

However, unlikely as it might seem, I think the choice of product and date was a ghastly coincidence.

But given the IRA's 25-year armed campaign, its entirely understandable that ordinary unionists instinctively come to other conclusions.

But for me, the greatest outrage regarding Kingsmill isn't McElduff's hapless video. It is that 42 years later, the IRA still lies through its teeth about involvement in the massacre of 10 men killed for no other reason than their religion.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph