Belfast Telegraph

Nelson McCausland: Sinn Fein refusal to condemn IRA murder attempt on Foster’s dad exposes party’s cold, cold heart

Sinn Fein resort to evasion and stonewalling when they are challenged about inconvenient truths

Sinn Fein leader‎ ‎Mary Lou McDonald
Sinn Fein leader‎ ‎Mary Lou McDonald
Nelson McCausland

By Nelson McCausland

Country music is very popular in Northern Ireland and in the Irish Republic and so many people will be familiar with the old Hank Williams song Cold, Cold Heart.

I thought about that title when I saw how Mary Lou McDonald, Michelle O’Neill, Elisha McCallion and Michelle Gildernew reacted to a question about the attempted murder of a Roslea farmer 40 years ago.

Arlene Foster was just eight years old on January 4, 1979 when the IRA attempted to murder her father John Kelly on the family farm. He was shot in the head and severely injured, but survived the murder bid.

However, that was not the intention of the Provisional IRA. The intention was to murder John Kelly and deprive an eight-year-old girl of her father. 

Thankfully his life was saved, but the family were forced to leave the Roslea area, where the IRA was running a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the minority Protestant community.

Recently Arlene Foster called on Sinn Fein to condemn the attack on her father and the question was put to Mary Lou McDonald by a reporter in the course of a Sinn Fein Press conference at Stormont.

The Sinn Fein president failed to do that and the report in this newspaper the following day was titled: ‘Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald refuses to condemn IRA murder bid on Arlene Foster’s father.’

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It is often suggested that woman are more compassionate than men, but there was not a scrap of empathy in Mary Lou McDonald’s response.

Anyone with a scrap of empathy would have no difficulty condemning a murder, or an attempted murder, but she couldn’t bring herself to do that.

In fact, her response to the attempted murder was pitiful and disdainful. It was thoroughly unpleasant to watch.

That’s what made me think of the words “cold, cold heart”; indeed, “cold, cold, callous heart” because Sinn Fein is a cold, cold, callous party.

My disappointment was then compounded by the failure of the reporters to interrogate the matter further. Surely, it was deserving of further questioning? But the Press conference moved on and, generally, that’s what happens.

The Sinn Fein president was even allowed to deflect the issue by saying the election was about the future, not the past.

I was waiting for her to be asked then about Sinn Fein’s catalogue of demands for legacy inquiries and investigations into the past, but no, it didn’t seem to happen.

Sinn Fein politicians generally deal with such difficult questions by stonewalling, evasion, deflection and uttering the usual platitudes.

Indeed, they are well-rehearsed in that, because it is an issue that comes up time and time again and that’s how they deal with it.

We saw it some time ago when Dr Peter Doran, a Queen’s University law lecturer and Sinn Fein candidate, refused to condemn the IRA murder of another law lecturer, Edgar Graham.

It seems as if some local reporters and interviewers have just surrendered to Sinn Fein’s stonewalling. It is as if they have just come to accept that Sinn Fein won’t condemn IRA murders and terrorism and so they let them away with it.

There may be a cursory question or two when, as in this case, a victim asks about a particular murder, but, by and large, Sinn Fein have ground down those who are in a position to interrogate them.

It’s all very different from the way the national media deal with party leaders and difficult questions; questions about their fitness to be in government.

Just look at the way mainland interviewers refuse to allow Jeremy Corbyn to evade the toxic issue of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. So, why is it very different on this side of the water?

And why wouldn’t the Sinn Fein president condemn an IRA murder bid? The answer was probably there in the background, because standing behind the four Sinn Fein women was Conor Murphy, who was sentenced to five years in prison for IRA membership and possession of explosives.

That’s a problem that is still there at the heart of Sinn Fein; the cold, cold, callous heart of Sinn Fein.

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