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File photo. David Cullinane. Brian Lawless/PA Images
David Cullinane

Sinn Féin TD says he was 'very excited' when he shouted 'Up the Ra' after being elected to the Dáil

A video being shared on social media shows David Cullinane making the statement in an address to supporters.

LAST UPDATE | 10 Feb 2020

A SINN FÉIN TD who topped the poll in his constituency has said he’ll never apologise for the depth of his feeling toward the hunger strikes after a video emerged of him saying “up the Ra”. 

In a video that has been shared on social media, Waterford’s David Cullinane is seen speaking to a number of people and references the fact that he received over 20,000 first preference votes.

Cullinane received 20,569 first preference votes and was elected on the first count in the Waterford constituency. 

“They didn’t break the hunger strikers, they didn’t break Bobby Sands and Kevin Lynch, they’ll never break us, they’ll never break Sinn Féin,” he said. Kevin Lynch died in the Maze Prison in 1981 and had run for election in the Waterford constituency. 

He concludes: “What we say is, up the Republic, up the Ra, and tiocfaidh ár lá.”

Speaking to Matt Cooper on The Last Word on Today FM this evening, Cullinane said that he “never distanced himself at all from the IRA, or from Bobby Sands”.

I’m never one who will distance myself from Sinn Féin’s past, or the IRA’s past. I don’t agree with everything the IRA did. Of course I don’t. Do I think Martin McGuinness was wrong to join the IRA? No I don’t… the bottom line is that the IRA is gone, it doesn’t mean we don’t celebrate or commemorate those volunteers.

Cullinane reiterated on several occasions on the show that he wouldn’t distance himself from hunger strikers or people who were involved in joining the IRA for “all sorts of reasons” and added that it was a “legacy issue”. 

He added he was “very thankful” the gun had been taken out of Irish politics and praised the peace process.

“I’m not going to apologise for the depth of feeling I have for those people who made that sacrifice,” he added, in reference to the hunger strikers.

Speaking later to journalists, Cullinane said that yesterday was “an emotional day for me” and that he and his supporters were “very excited”. 

“I think our candidates across the country it was a long count and obviously we were very excited and very proud of the vote that we got yesterday in Waterford. The 30-second clip was part of a broader, longer speech that I gave where I was reflecting back on the hunger strikes, reflecting back on the fact that Kevin Lynch stood in the constituency back in 1981, he was someone that inspired me,” he said.

It was reflecting back on that time in Irish history that I’m proud of and those hunger strikers and it was, I suppose, part of the excitement of the night when we were celebrating that victory but my comments were about the past, they’re not about the future. The IRA is gone, as everybody knows that and I celebrate that the same as anybody else. 

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald TD described Cullinane’s comments as “a distraction” and said they would not damage her efforts at forming a government.

Asked would she be asking her TDs to refrain from making similar comments, McDonald said that she was “not their mammy”.

“I don’t censor them either, we’re all adults and I do expect people to behave in an adult way and to cooperate with their dear leader and not to create distractions. But let’s not get over-excited on this thing,” she said.

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