Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein events are offensive to families

Editor's Viewpoint

Sinn Fein likes to portray itself as a modern, progressive party, in touch with public opinion on social issues such as abortion and same sex marriages and ready for government in both parts of Ireland.

It has walked away from government in Northern Ireland, triggering a political stasis, but still has high hopes of playing a pivotal role after the next general election in the Republic. It will also run a candidate in the election for President in that jurisdiction.

The party's leadership constantly talks about equality, respect and human rights, yet continues to put itself beyond the pale in the eyes of many people in Northern Ireland, with its glorification of IRA members guilty of some heinous atrocities.

Sinn Fein argues that it should be allowed to honour dead republicans, but even if that argument is accepted in principle, in practice, the party's commemorations are utterly offensive to those who suffered at the hands of terrorism.

Take the forthcoming event in Castlewellan, where the annual event to honour the hunger strikers will be held. Around 70 people died at the hands of the IRA in that general area and it is natural that their relatives and the wider community from which they came will find the event distressing.

It was hoped that the new president of Sinn Fein, Mary Lou McDonald, would bring a different approach to such events, that they would take into account the sensitivities of people who do not share republicans' outlook.

These are coat-trailing occasions, events at which Sinn Fein seek to justify the unjustifiable - the 30 years of murder and mayhem carried out by republicans which accounted for the majority of the 3,000-plus people killed.

It should be noted that this commemoration is held in a different location each year. Inevitably, that means that annually a new group of bereaved people have the loss of their loved ones brought back into focus. It is like pouring salt on an open wound.

If Sinn Fein wants to be taken seriously as a party which wishes to sincerely recast its image, then it must stop this ceaseless provocation of people who have already suffered too much.

Politics in Northern Ireland is already toxic and adding further fuel to the fire through these offensive gestures will not aid the search for accommodation and a return to devolution.

Belfast Telegraph

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