‘Nothing changes in SF’– Mary Lou sparks new Kingsmill fury

Just a sample of what Sinn Fein deem appropriate punishment for one of its own members……………

SINN Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald’s credibility is in tatters after she launched a bizarre attack on RTÉ and staunchly defended her party’s approach to disgraced MP Barry McElduff.

The party leader-in-waiting sparked fury as she broke her silence on Mr McElduff ’s shocking social media post about the Kingsmill massacre.

Ms McDonald initially described his behaviour as “very crass”, “very stupid”, “very hurtful” and “unforgivable”.

But she later described the decision to suspend Mr McElduff on full pay as a “proportionate response”, adding that the behavior displayed by the West Tyrone MP was “frowned upon” by the party.

In a car-crash interview on RTÉ Radio, Ms McDonald twice attacked the national broadcaster and the line of questioning by journalist Justin McCarthy.

Sinn Féin has been plunged into crisis after the party refused to expel Mr McElduff for mocking the sectarian murders of 10 Protestants in 1976. He posted a social media video of himself with a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head. Despite an expectation he would be expelled, the party announced he would be suspended on full pay for three months.

Last night, the brother of one of the Kingsmill victims said the comments by Ms McDonald showed that “nothing has changed” with the incoming Sinn Féin leadership.

Colin Worton, brother of victim Kenneth, pointed to Ms McDonald’s hypocrisy after she described the actions by Mr McElduff as “unforgivable”.

“All the party has done is rapped him across the knuckles. They have forgiven him for what he has done,” he told the Irish Independent.

Mr Worton said Sinn Féin was “speaking with false tongue” and that victims’ families were left disgusted by the leadership response.

And he joined Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin in calling

on Ms McDonald to publicly say whether she believes the Kingsmill massacre was carried out by the Provisional IRA. “They have never admitted it. Will the new leadership do so now?”

Cork South Central TD Mr Martin said the events of recent days were troubling. “Sinn Féin is all over the place on the Barry McElduff incident,” said Mr Martin. “Again, Mary Lou McDonald had the opportunity to show some leadership on the issue … and again failed, preferring to attack RTÉ for having the temerity to question Sinn Féin’s response to the incident.

“One question I would like to hear her answer is whether she will finally accept, on behalf of her organisation, that the Kingsmill Massacre was a vile sectarian act carried out by the Provisional IRA, and whether they will work towards finally establishing the truth of that terrible day?”

The crisis facing the Sinn Féin leadership escalated after Ms McDonald appeared on RTÉ radio, and took issue with Mr McCarthy focusing on the Kingsmill controversy instead of the one-year anniversary of the collapse of power-sharing and the death of Martin McGuinness. She then took a second swipe at RTÉ.

“I think this is a very strange agenda if this is what is being pursued by RTÉ that now we cannot deal with the issues at hand because of a very stupid, very obnoxious and hurtful tweet from a person who has been disciplined,” she said.

In a rare move, RTÉ publicly hit back at Sinn Féin last night and defended the line of questioning by its journalist.

“We are entirely happy with the manner he conducted the interview. He is a very experienced and highly regarded political journalist,” an RTÉ spokeswoman told the Irish Independent.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe yesterday said Mr McElduff’s behaviour was “appalling”, while his junior minister Patrick O’Donovan added: “I think the reaction of the relatives spoke volumes for the hurt that has been inflicted.”

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Sinn Féin’s three-month suspension of MP for mocking dead of Kingsmill atrocity is simply not enough, writes Becca Smith, niece of innocent victim John Mc Conville

The order was given to “finish them off ”, and another burst of gunfire was shot into the bodies of the workmen

ON JANUARY 5, 1976, just after 5.30pm, a red minibus was carrying 16 textile workers home from their workplace in Glenanne in South Armagh. The minibus made one stop at Whitecross and then continued along a rural road with the remaining 12 workers, to its final destination in Bessbrook.

As the bus cleared the rise of a hill, it was stopped by a man in combat uniform standing on the road and flashing a torch. The workers assumed they were being stopped and searched by the British Army, which was normal back then.

As the bus stopped, gunmen in combat uniform and with blackened faces emerged from the hedges. The workers were ordered to get out of the bus and to line up facing it with their hands on the roof.

The question, “Who is the Catholic?” was asked. There was only one Catholic amongst the 12 men. His workmates – now fearing that the gunmen were loyalists who had come to kill him – tried to stop him from identifying himself. However, he was picked out of the group and told to “Get down the road and don’t look back”.

“Right.” The order was given and the gunmen immediately opened fire on the workers.

The 11 men were shot at very close range with automatic rifles. A total of 136 rounds were fired in less than a minute.

The men were shot at waist-height and fell to the ground; some fell on top of each other, either dead or wounded.

When the initial burst of gunfire stopped, the gunmen reloaded their weapons.

The order was given to “finish them off”, and another burst of gunfire was shot into the heaped bodies of the workmen.

At this point, the youngest of those murdered, who was just 19, called for his mummy. One of the gunmen also walked amongst the dying men and shot them each in the head with a pistol as they lay on the ground.

Ten of them died at the scene.

Alan Black (then aged 32) was the only one who survived. He had been shot 18 times and one of the bullets had grazed his head.

After the frenzy of gunfire was over, the gunmen silently slipped into the darkness and left Alan fighting for his life amongst his dead friends.

The brutality of this event still haunts Alan’s mind 42 years later.

No one has ever been charged with these murders.

Last Friday marked the 42nd anniversary of the massacre and the families left behind after this atrocity are still working tirelessly to get justice for their loved ones.

The Northern Ireland we live in today would be more than pleased to close the door on what happened during the Troubles.

I hear things like, “the past is the past” and “things that happened in the Troubles need to be forgotten about for Northern Ireland to progress positively”.

Some of you reading this probably have those thoughts going through your head right now.

However, what if it was your brother or your father or your son that was brutally murdered, I wonder would you still hold the same opinion?

If the same event happened tonight and you lost someone, but no one was ever charged for their murder, and you were told to forget about it, how would you feel?

For my family, it’s not a what-if, but a reality. My uncle John was only 20 years old and was one of the men murdered at Kingsmill 42 years ago. I’ve been told that John was a gentle boy, with a kind heart.

Nearly everyone who has spoken to me about my uncle always says he is remembered for his blond curls. He held a strong faith and days after his murder my grandmother received his acceptance to Bible college in Scotland. An offer he would never be able to accept.

My mum and aunties had their brother ripped out of their lives, my grandparents lost a son too soon and myself, my sisters, and cousins have been denied an uncle throughout our lives.

I always thought my uncle John was so old when I was growing up.

It wasn’t until I turned 20 that the reality of him being so young when he was murdered hit me.

Turning 21 is a milestone in most people’s lives, and I enjoyed my 21st birthday celebrations in July past, however, my uncle didn’t get that chance.

My generation knows very little, if anything, about what happened in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. It makes sense for our parents to want to shield us from the reality of what this country has been through. However, there are families all over the North, from both sides of the community, who are still suffering from the brutality of what this country has been through.

Fortunately for my generation, we live in a very different Northern Ireland to our parents. To me, there is no difference between a Protestant and a Catholic.

I go to university in a controversial area of West Belfast, and study with members from the other side of the community, something my mum’s generation would never have dreamed of, and in fact one of my longest and closest friends is from a Catholic upbringing.

However, when things happen, like the Barry McElduff incident, it brings with it concern for the future of Northern Ireland.

In recent days, Mr McElduff, a Sinn Féin MP, posted a video on his social media on the anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre.

It involves him walking through a petrol station with a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head.

My mum and aunties have faced pain and heartache, especially in recent times as they have had to face sitting through a new inquest into the murder of their brother.

It disgusts me that a government representative is the cause of their latest pain and heartbreak.

Yesterday we heard that Mr McElduff has been suspended by his party for three months.

As a Sinn Féin MP, he doesn’t take his seat at Westminster, but to hear he is being suspended with full pay is a punch in the stomach.

Is this really a punishment for his actions?

Michelle O’Neill, the Sinn Féin party leader in Northern Ireland, spoke out to the press and stated that Mr McElduff had given his “rehearsed apology”.

That’s the reality of it,

there was no emotion in this apology and he was simply saying what he has been told to say by his party. Unfortunately a three-month paid suspension and an apology is not good enough.

A petition has been circulated around social media in the last couple of days to have Mr McElduff removed completely from his position in government. The petition has reached nearly 30,000 signatures, so surely the government needs to act.

To Barry McElduff, I have so many thoughts going through my head.

What were you thinking when you posted that video?

Why choose that particular brand of bread? Why post it just after midnight on the anniversary of the Kingsmill Massacre?

You have said it was not intentional and you meant for no hurt or pain to be caused to the families, but your suggestion of it being a coincidence won’t be accepted by my family and hasn’t been accepted by the 30,000 other people who are calling for you to be dismissed.

You have so much to answer for and unfortunately an apology and a paid suspension by your party is not good enough.

Maybe the next time you can’t find the bread you’ll ask a member of staff, rather than making a mockery of a truly horrific event.

To Sinn Féin, how can you, as a political party, think a fully paid suspension for your member’s actions is enough?

How will Northern Ireland move forward positively if you don’t punish Mr McElduff fairly?

If one of your colleagues from the other side of the community did something similar, you would be calling for a harder punishment.

Barry McElduff should be completely removed from his position as an MP as he has shown he is unfit to be a public representative for the people of Northern Ireland.

SENIOR Sinn Féin politician who cast an extraordinary slur on the victims of the Kingsmill massacre will remain on full pay as he serves a three-month suspension.

Sinn Féin MP Barry McElduff with a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head on the anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre. Right: Michelle O’Neill There was widespread shock in political circles last night after the party refused to expel West Tyrone MP Barry McElduff for his mocking of the sectarian murders of 10 Protestants in 1976.

Mr McElduff posted a social media video of himself with a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head on the anniversary of one of the worst events of The Troubles.

His actions have caused deep hurt to the victims’ families.

Shock

Both Fine Gael and the Labour Party expressed their shock after the party’s Northern leader Michelle O’Neill announced that Mr McElduff will be suspended for three months and will remain on full pay.

Mr McElduff attended a meeting with party bosses in west Belfast yesterday.

Speaking afterwards, Ms O’Neill said the tweet was “ill-judged and indefensible” but insisted she did not believe it was intentionally malicious.

She also confirmed that her party colleague would continue to be paid his Sinn Féin party salary during his suspension.

Mr McElduff said he accepted the sanction imposed by the leadership.

However, he insisted the contentious post was not meant as a reference to the sectarian murders of 10 workmen at the village of Kingsmill.

“Although I genuinely meant no offence, I accept that my actions were ill-judged and, while unintended, caused deep and unnecessary hurt and pain to the Kingsmill families,” he said.

Sinn Féin’s leader-in-waiting in the Republic, Dublin Central TD Mary Lou McDonald, did not respond to a request for comment last night.

The party’s finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty, said he did not believe the actions warranted Mr McElduff ’s resignation.

Mr Doherty told Barrscéalta on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltacht: “I don’t think he should resign, I don’t think he did it to upset the families or draw attention t0 the matter, it was just a stupid thing he did.

“But he should have known better, as an MP, that particular day (was the anniversary of the massacre) and that that was very important.”

Opposition parties rounded on Sinn Féin over the sanction.

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said it was entirely inadequate and called on Ms McDonald to make a full statement.

“If we are truly now to turn the page on the past there must be not only a genuine renouncing of such violent acts, but an admission by those who carried it out and their political supporters that this was a wholly unjustified crime against humanity,” Mr Howlin said.

Fine Gael TD and former chairman of the Oireachtas justice committee, Alan Farrell, expressed his shock over the three-month suspension, which he labelled a holiday.

Holiday

“It’s clear to me that the Sinn Féin organisation are not taking such disgraceful comments seriously.

“A three-month holiday is little comfort to the families insulted by these reprehensible antics,” he said.

Meanwhile, the storm around the social media post is threatening to further disrupt faltering efforts to re-establish a powersharing executive at Stormont, with the Democratic Unionist Party characterising it as an affront to victims.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson heavily criticised the length of the suspension.

“This pitiful sanction will only further compound the victims’ grief,” he said.

“For all their lecturing about respect, Sinn Féin have been exposed for what they are.

“Big implications and serious questions remain for the Sinn Féin leadership.”

SINN Féin-IRA’s kangaroo courts allowed child abusers to walk free and not be prosecuted by the authorities. The party’s disciplinary system has thus far found little evidence of bullying within the organisation, despite complaints from members in constituencies around the country.

Sinn Féin’s idea of punishment when its members cross the line is a mild rap across the knuckles. Such was the penalty imposed on the party’s MP Barry McElduff.

He was suspended from all party activity for just three months after he posted a video online that relatives of the victims of the 1976 Kingsmill massacre, carried out by the Provisional IRA, described as callous and offensive.

The video showed Mr McElduff in a supermarket with a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head.

Kingsmill is a well-known brand of bread in Northern Ireland. It shares a name with the south Armagh village where Provos stopped a van carrying textile workers on their way home, identified the Protestant occupants, lined them up at the side of the road and shot them. Mr McElduff’s stunt occurred on the anniversary of this cowardly act.

Apart from a PR exercise, it’s not quite clear why Sinn Féin has suspended Mr McElduff, as the party fails to identify what it views as his offence. Mr McElduff will even continue to be paid during his so-called suspension.

Sinn Féin Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill says Barry McElduff’s video wasn’t “calculated or deliberately intended to be malicious”. Any right-thinking people would regard it as crass, insensitive – and sinister.

Its leader-for-life is about to depart the scene, but the Sinn Féin-IRA leopard hasn’t changed its spots.

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