HERE’S a newsflash just in: Barry ‘Loaf on the Loaf ’ McElduff will not be able to vote for Mary Lou McDonald as new Sinn Féin leader because he has been suspended from all party activities for three months.

Sinn Féin’s Northern Ireland leader Michelle O’Neill, party president Gerry Adams, and deputy leader Mary Lou McDonaldStill, that doesn’t matter. It appears nobody else will be able to vote for Ms McDonald at their Ard Fheis in February to pick a replacement for their leader of 34 years, Gerry Adams.

That party, we are often told, is bursting with up-and-coming talent. But it just does not have anybody else who comes anywhere near Mary Lou McDonald. She is most unlikely to be opposed – by anyone.

But don’t anyone ask too many questions here. Like Adams, McDonald insists this is about media agendas.

Let’s just do a quick recap. On the 42nd anniversary of the sectarian IRA murder of 10 Protestant men returning from work at a place called Kingsmill, brave Barry McElduff, Sinn Féin MP for West Tyrone, posted a video of himself on social media. He was wearing a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head.

We know that McElduff has apologised and said he meant utterly no offence. Just clowning around. And the Sinn Féin sanctions? Well, a three-month suspension with pay from party activities.

Apart from being unable to vote in the leadership non-contest, or attend that Ard Fheis, it’s hard to see what else is involved. He could miss the odd cumann meeting. But it should be lifted by Easter so he can wear the lily alright.

It has offended the bereaved families and shown the sectarian divisions which still afflict the North. It has made it harder to get the Belfast power-sharing government back. But you cannot say things like that while Sinn Féin’s soon-to-be leader is around.

On RTÉ radio yesterday McDonald took exception to such a line of questioning from presenter Justin McCarthy. When McCarthy asked about implications for power-sharing restoration, we got this from McDonald: “I think it is a very strange agenda, if this is what is being pursued by RTÉ, to say that now we cannot deal with the issues at hand because of a very stupid, very obnoxious, and very hurtful tweet, from a person who has been disciplined. I frankly don’t buy that.”

We were back with the old interview dodge, directly addressing the party core support base. Just add a long statement and accuse the interviewer of being unfair.

McDonald’s arrogant non-response just added fuel to the fire. She had begun the interview on RTÉ by just brushing aside a direct question: Was a three-month suspension any punishment at all?

Well, McDonald first had to treat us to a lecture on the past 12 months of non-politics in the North.

She followed by insisting that McElduff was most contrite.

Then she had the temerity to tell us the party had “rightly disciplined” him for his actions.

It eerily matched Gerry Adams’s media outings where he mixed a determination not to give answers, with a wounded claim about the unfairness of everything.

An hour after the interview, the phones of ‘Liveline’ had lit up with a series of angry callers. They were outraged by the Sinn Féin hierarchy and its handling of the scandal.

Orla from Kildare summed up the mood. She said she voted for Sinn Féin in the past but the incident changed her opinion of the party.

And in the political arena, the reality is that in this game of “pass the blame parcel”, Sinn Féin has gifted the advantage to their opposition.