Arlene Foster with party colleague Nigel Dodds speaking at the launch of a new policy plan in Belfast today. PA

Arlene Foster challenges Sinn Féin to condemn IRA shooting of her father

The DUP leader also called on the republican party to condemn a murder attempt on DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds.

DUP LEADER ARLENE Foster has challenged Sinn Féin to condemn IRA murder bids against both her late father and the DUP’s deputy leader.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader singled out the two Troubles incidents as she suggested the republican party was being selective on what it will condemn.

Her remarks come amid a row about loyalist banners that have appeared in the North Belfast constituency making a series of allegations against Sinn Féin candidate John Finucane and his family, including his solicitor father Pat, who was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries during the conflict.

Sinn Féin president Mary-Lou McDonald had called on unionist leaders to condemn what she described as a “sinister and dangerous campaign of threats and intimidation” against the Finucanes.

At the launch of a DUP policy paper this morning, deputy leader Nigel Dodds condemned the posters, making clear his party would have nothing to do with anything that demonised or smeared rival candidates.

Foster followed-up those remarks with her challenge to Sinn Féin.

“It is a bit rich to listen to people talking about violence and hate crimes and what have you,” she said.

“We need complete clarity from Sinn Féin around some of the most violent acts that took place here in Northern Ireland. What do they have to say about the attempted murder of my father for example, what do they have to say about the attempted murder of Nigel Dodds?

“We need to hear from them what they have to say about that.”

Foster’s policeman father John Kelly was badly injured when the IRA shot him in the head at their family farm in Co Fermanagh in 1979.

In 1996, a policeman was shot and injured when the IRA tried to murder Dodds as he visited his seriously ill son in the Royal Children’s Hospital in west Belfast.

Dodds also referenced the hospital assassination bid when asked about the posters at the launch of the DUP’s 12-point plan titled Let’s Get NI Moving Again.

The 12 priorities outlined in this plan are:

  • Setting up an Executive immediately.
  • Investing in new healthcare services and staff and embracing technologies such as Artificial Intelligence. 
  • Introducing childcare changes including increased childcare provision for three to four-year-olds. 
  • Investing further in infrastructure and a business rates system.
  • Bringing in a new welfare package .
  • “Promoting a culture of choosing life” through perinatal services and baby boxes.
  • A new environmental strategy and action on pollution, while still supporting farmers and rural communities.
  • New offences and tougher sentences on animal protection.
  • Tackling social housing, new approaches to affordable housing and improving quality in private market.
  • Tackling paramilitary activity and improving the police service.
  • Getting a new Assembly that will “undergo far-reaching reform”.
  • Celebrate the centenary of NI in 2021. 

Banner issue 

On the loyalist banner issue, Dodds said: “The banners and posters have nothing to do with our campaign. We knew nothing about them and I want to make it very, very clear that anything that is personally abusive or offensive, inaccurate and smearing of any candidate in any political party is to be condemned and is nothing to do with a proper democratic debate or a democratic election, so I want to make that very, very clear indeed.

“Our party has been crystal clear on these issues, on violence and on the use of violence. And the challenge to all parties is the same – we see some vile internet trolling of victims, of unionists politicians as well, and that’s to be condemned also.”

Dodds added: “But there’s also a challenge to Sinn Féin in this election; They can’t be selective here. We condemn every act of violence from every paramilitary organisation – do they do that, will they do that? Will they condemn the IRA who went into a hospital 20 years ago and shot a police officer guarding me? Do they condemn it? No, they don’t.

“Will they stop eulogising the violent perpetrators of the IRA – it’s time they were challenged on some of this stuff and not be selective about it.

“Our position is clear – we will have no part in anything that demonises or has any personal offence or personal abuse against any candidate, it’s not part of our campaign and we will not be part of it.”

In a speech earlier today, DUP leader Arlene Foster said the stakes “could not be higher” for NI and its future at the moment. 

“We understand, and share, the frustrations that we are not able to get things done here locally via a Northern Ireland Executive.” she said. “We want to work with other parties to get Northern Ireland moving again.”

With reporting by Orla Dwyer. 

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