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Mary Lou says Kingsmill video hasn't damaged Sinn Féin's credibility

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

Updated 10.45pm

SINN FÉIN’S DEPUTY leader Mary Lou McDonald has denied the party’s credibility has been damaged by the controversy surrounding MP Barry McElduff.

Pressure is mounting on McElduff after a controversial video of him balancing a loaf of ‘Kingsmill’ bread on his head on the anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre was posted on and then deleted from social media, with a group of MPs tabling a motion for his resignation.

McDonald said the punishment meted out to MP Barry McElduff is both “appropriate and proportionate”.

When asked on RTÉ’s Six One News if Sinn Féin’s credibility was damaged as a result of the controversy, McDonald said she didn’t accept that – and that the “only person whose credibility was damaged is Barry McElduff”.

Sinn Féin announced yesterday that McElduff has been suspended from the party for three months following an uproar over the video. Both the party and McElduff have apologised for his actions.

original A screengrab of the offending video.

“Barry fully accepts that he caused hurt and distress to the Kingsmill families, that was unforgivable. He is absolutely contrite. He has been disciplined by the party. It is very clear we do not tolerate behaviour like that and his membership has been suspended for three months,” McDonald told RTÉ’s News at One earlier today.

This is a significant disciplinary action, and it is appropriate and proportionate for two reasons – one because the offending tweet was removed quite correctly from social media, and two because Barry takes full responsibility and acknowledges that, whether intentional or unintentional, grave hurt and offence was caused to grieving families.

“That’s not acceptable.”

She added that “anyone who follows his social media will know that some of it is quirky to say the very least”.

He is by no means a malicious person, I don’t believe for a second that he set out to hurt or maliciously offend anyone.

Resignation

A number of British MPs have tabled a motion calling for the resignation of McElduff.

Signed by six MPs, the letter reads:

This house believes that the sectarian massacre at Kingsmill of 10 Protestant workers by the Provisional IRA on 5 January 1976 was one of the worst single atrocities of the Troubles.
…[It notes] that the IRA murder gang spared a Catholic worker; is horrified that on the 42nd anniversary of the massacre, the Honorary Member for West Tyrone chose to release a video of himself on social media with a loaf of Kingsmill bread balancing on his head.

“[It] further believes that this offensive act brings into question his judgement and the sincerity of his commitment to non-sectarianism; and agrees with the sole survivor of the massacre and many others that it would be wise if he resigned his seat.”

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; 10 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.

An online petition calling on the resignation of McElduff has gained over 30,000 signatures since it was launched over the weekend.

The petition says: “We believe Barry McElduff’s ‘apology’ is not enough. The unionist community and particularly the families of those murdered deserve more than a mere apology.”

‘I apologise unreservedly’ 

McElduff met with Sinn Féin’s northern leadership yesterday to discuss his actions.

Following the crunch meeting, McElduff said in a statement that he “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,” the statement said.

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.

Sinn Féin’s leader in the North, Michelle O’Neill MLA, released a statement saying that she met with McElduff yesterday 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.

“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.”

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 Kingsmill’s 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.

With reporting by Daragh Brophy, Cianan Brennan and Órla Ryan

First published 11am

Read: Sinn Féin MP suspended for three months over Kingsmill video

More: Nominations for a new Sinn Féin leader open today

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