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Sinn Féin MP suspended for three months over Kingsmill video

The sole survivor of the Kingsmill massacre said the video was like “a punch to the stomach”.

Updated 3.20pm

SINN FÉIN MP Barry McElduff has been suspended from the party for three months following the bizarre controversy that involved the politician posting a Twitter video of himself balancing a loaf of ‘Kingsmill’ bread on his head.

McElduff has apologised after he posted the footage of himself on Friday – the anniversary of the notorious Kingsmill massacre. The party has also apologised.

The MP said he didn’t notice the connection between the product brand name and the anniversary.

The infamous massacre saw a van carrying a group of textile workers pulled over by men disguised as British soldiers on 5 January 1976. The protestant workers were lined up and asked their religion before the gunmen opened fire. Ten men were killed.

A 2011 inquiry found that those who carried out the massacre were members of the Provisional IRA who were acting under the name the South Armagh Republican Action Force.

barry A screengrab of the offending video.

McElduff met with the party’s northern leadership today to discuss his actions.

Following the crunch meeting, McElduff said in a statement:

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.
I apologise unreservedly for this.
In recognising the serious consequences of my actions, I fully accept the party’s decision to suspend me from all party activity for a period of three months.

‘Very irresponsible’ 

Sinn Féin Leader in the North Michelle O’Neill MLA released a statement saying that today she met with Barry McElduff to ask for an explanation in relation to his tweet.

“I made it clear to Barry that his tweet was ill-judged, indefensible, and caused hurt and pain to the victims of Kingsmill; that it falls far short of the standard expected of Sinn Féin representatives and our members,” she said.

“Barry has again apologised for the unintended hurt which his tweet caused. He deeply regrets making such a post, and he accepts he has made an error of judgement.

“I don’t believe that Barry’s actions were calculated or deliberately intended to be malicious.

“However, given the seriousness of the issue, I have suspended Barry with immediate effect for a period of three months. Barry accepts this suspension as an appropriate response to his social media activity.

To the Kingsmill families, I recognise the hurt this has caused and I wholeheartedly apologise for any distress.

Speaking this morning, Sinn Féin’s chairman Declan Kearney said he wanted to express Sinn Féin’s regret over the posting of the video, which he described as “very irresponsible” and a “significant error in judgement”.

He pointed out that McElduff had acted swiftly to delete the video and had issued an unreserved apology.

Asked by Morning Ireland’s Brian Dobson whether he thought McElduff should remain on as an MP, Kearney did not answer directly but defended the party’s response to the controversy to date.

“My own view is that we have taken the appropriate course of action,” he said.

The West Tyrone MP’s video shows him walking up and down the aisle of a petrol station with the loaf of bread on his head.

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With the bread on his head, he asks: “I’m in the classic service station here, but I’m just wondering, where does McCullough’s keep the bread?”

In a statement over the weekend, McElduff said he didn’t notice the connection between the bread’s brand name and the date and he apologised if it caused offence.

I deleted a video post from my Twitter account this morning. When I posted the video I had not realised or imagined for a second that there was any possible link between the brand name of the bread and the Kingsmill anniversary. It was never my intention to hurt or cause offence to anyone and in particular to victims of the conflict who have suffered so grievously. I apologise unreservedly for the hurt and pain this post has caused.

The video was criticised by several unionist politicians, with the DUP claiming that the timing was “calculated and deliberate”.

The sole survivor of the Kingsmill massacre, Alan Black, told the BBC  he did not accept the Sinn Féin MP’s apology, describing the video as being like “a punch to the stomach”.

He just wanted to hurt the Kingsmills families, but it’s hurt a lot of people across the north of Ireland. He had to backtrack and give a half apology.

Black said he was not interested in a meeting, after McElduff offered to speak to the families of victims.

Sinn Féin MLA Mairtín Ó Muilleoir, who retweeted McElduff’s original video, said he had regarded the post as being “wholly apolitical”.

He later apologised, saying it had been pointed out to him that the video had hurt and offended people.

Over 23,000 people signed a petition calling on McElduff to resign.

With reporting by Christina Finn 

Read: Nominations for a new Sinn Féin leader open today >

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Daragh Brophy

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