Sinn Féin’s continued “eulogising” of the IRA is thwarting efforts to build a shared future in Northern Ireland, Democratic Unionist leader Arlene Foster has warned.
Mrs Foster delivered a blunt message to the republican party in the wake of a furore sparked when one of its MPs posed with a Kingsmill-branded loaf on his head on the anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre.
“They have to stop eulogising terrorists,” she said.
“They have to stop that, it cannot continue.
“If we are building a new shared future for the people of Northern Ireland, let’s build it, but let’s move away from the past and move away from the eulogising of terrorists.”
The DUP leader claimed the controversy around West Tyrone MP Barry McElduff’s social media video was just one of many instances where Sinn Féin members showed disrespect to the victims sector.
Mr McElduff has been suspended by Sinn Féin for three months.
He has insisted the video was not meant as a reference to the republican murders of 10 Protestant workmen at the village of Kingsmill in January 1976 and issued an unreserved apologies to the victims’ families.
Mrs Foster was scathing in her assessment of how Sinn Féin has handled the affair as she emerged from her first face-to-face meeting with new Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley at Stormont House.
“It really is time for Sinn Féin to show respect for all of the people of Northern Ireland, it is time for them to understand the hurt they have caused, not just over the incident with Barry McElduff but over a whole range of incidents in relation to innocent victims,” she said.
Mrs Foster added: “We have listened to lectures on respect for a whole year and it’s very easy to demand respect, but apparently it is not very easy to give respect, and Sinn Féin have not given respect to the victims community here in Northern Ireland and, by definition, the whole wider community in Northern Ireland.”
Announcing Mr McElduff’s suspension on Monday, Sinn Féin’s Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill apologised to the Kingsmill families.
She said the tweet was “ill-judged and indefensible” but said she did not believe it was intentionally malicious.
In the short video, Mr McElduff, who is known for his light-hearted social media contributions, is filmed walking around a shop with a Kingsmill loaf on his head, asking where the store kept the bread.
It was posted around the 42nd anniversary of the Kingsmill outrage last Friday.
The abstentionist MP has faced multiple calls to resign in the wake of the controversy.
Mr McElduff will continue to be paid during his three-month suspension from party activities.
After Monday’s disciplinary meeting in Belfast, Mrs O’Neill said sorry to the Kingsmill families.
“To the Kingsmill families, I as the Sinn Féin leader in the north want to apologise unreservedly for the hurt and pain that has been caused over the course of the last number of days in regard to Barry’s tweet,” she said.
– PA and Digital desk