Belfast Telegraph

Once again we can see Sinn Fein's double standards

Editor's Viewpoint

Declan Kearney, Sinn Fein's national chairman, struck the correct note yesterday morning when criticising West Tyrone MP Barry McElduff and his noxious Kingsmill loaf tweet.

Mr Kearney described it as absolutely inexcusable and indefensible and that it fell well short of the standards demanded by the party of its members, including senior elected representatives.

He also expressed his personal as well as the party's sincere regret for the understandable offence caused by the tweet.

Those were all the right words and the survivors of the 10 men murdered by republicans at Kingsmill and the sole survivor of the atrocity had every right to expect that they would be followed up by an appropriate sanction against Mr McElduff.

Instead what they witnessed was nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Suspending him on full pay for three months is meaningless.

All it means is that he will not be able to attend party meetings or take part in delegations. Given the current state of politics in Northern Ireland and the fact that Sinn Fein doesn't even sit at Westminster his absence from any of the above activities will hardly be noticed.

Of course, it should not have required the party to impose any sanction. Whether he meant to cause offence or not he should have offered to resign immediately he realised the scale of the hurt he had caused.

Obviously Sinn Fein did realise the potential damage when Mr Kearney issued his statement, even if it took too long to deliver. It now seems that it was designed to quieten criticism from supporters, particularly in the Republic and abroad.

Events have shown that when it comes to showing respect and understanding which the party demands of others it can talk the talk but not walk the walk.

It is obvious that the legacy of the past is a toxic issue, but it can only be addressed if people accept that the only hierarchy which matters are the victims and survivors of violence. Glorifying terrorism - by naming a children's playground in Newry after hunger striker Raymond McCreesh, for example - or refusing to properly discipline a member guilty of unacceptable behaviour demonstrates why many people have difficulty accepting Sinn Fein as fit for government. Its response in this instance, like the tweet, was inexcusable and indefensible.

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