SINN FÉIN HAS said it welcomes the involvement of former IRA political prisoners who have embraced the peace process in its forthcoming general election campaign.
The party today confirmed that Midlands North West MEP Matt Carthy will be its director of elections. Carthy was criticised in 2014 after it emerged that a man convicted of murdering Lord Louis Mountbatten was canvassing for him.
Tommy McMahon was convicted of the 1979 IRA attack on Lord Mountbatten’s fishing boat off the Sligo coast which killed the 79-year old cousin of Queen Elizabeth and three others, including his 14-year-old grandson.
McMahon was released from prison under the Good Friday Agreement and has since been a prominent political activist for Sinn Féin in Monaghan,
Carthy told reporters today that he didn’t know if McMahon would be inolved this time around, but said people in Monaghan would be surprised if he wasn’t.
“Tommy’s a Sinn Féin member and he has supported the peace process and he has supported a number of Sinn Féin candidates. He’s a local party activist, just as quite a number of former political prisoners are political activists,” Carthy told reporters.
“That’s what we asked them to do when we all supported the Good Friday Agreement. We asked those people who had been involved in the conflict to get involved in the peace process, in the political process. Tommy McMahon was one of the many people who decided to take on that role.”
Asked if he was concerned about the involvement of former political prisoners in Sinn Féin’s election campaign, Carthy said:
No, there are people who’ve been involved in republican struggle over the past number of decades. They are now involved in a political and peace process, we welcome that.
“In many cases we would be very proud that people who stood up against the might of British aggression in the six countries, and who stood up against censorship, for example, in this state or whatever the case may be, that they’re now involved in a peace process.”
Speaking alongside Carthy, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams pointed out that he too is a former political prisoner as is Martin McGuinness, the North’s deputy first minister, who was convicted of IRA membership in the 1970s.
Adams was jailed without trial in 1972 under the controversial Special Powers Act before being released that same year to take part in ceasefire talks with the British.
The Louth TD has always denied he was a member of the IRA and was acquitted of the charge in 1977.
“The unionists are quite happy to work with [Martin McGuinness] and be in government with him. Jennifer McCann, who’s another minister in the North, is a former political prisoner. God knows how many of our MLAs are former political prisoners,” Adams said today.
So, things have changed, things have moved on and people who are part of the party, and that includes people who were former political prisoners, play a very, very constructive role and we just need to get a bit of sense.
He added that former taoiseach and presdient Éamon de Valera was also former political prisoner.