Sinn Fein MP Barry McElduff apologises after Kingsmill video
A SINN Féin MP has apologised after posting a video on social media showing him balancing a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head – on the 42nd anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre.
Barry McElduff insisted the video, posted on Twitter late on Friday night, was not meant as a reference to the IRA murder of 10 innocent protestant workmen in 1976.
In the clip, the west Tyrone MP balances a Kingsmill loaf on his head and asks where the shop, McCullagh's in Omagh, keeps its bread.
Kingsmill is a well-known brand of bread, based in Merseyside, although it shares its name with the south Armagh village which was the scene of one of the most notorious mass killings of the Troubles.
On January 5 1976, a van carrying textile workers home from their workplace in Glennane was stopped at a bogus army checkpoint. The occupants – eleven Protestants and one Catholic – were ordered to exit the vehicle and line up outside.
After being questioned about their religion, the sole Catholic was told to flee the scene before the remaining eleven men were brutally gunned down by a hail of bullets. One man, Alan Black, miraculously survived despite being hit 18 times.
Although never formally claimed by the IRA, a HET report in 2011 concluded that Provisional IRA men were responsible for the killings.
Friday’s post was strongly condemned by both politicians and the wider public, with many calling it a "sickening" attack on victims and their loved ones.
Mr Black said he believed the insult was intended
"It was like a punch to the stomach, it was so callous. To mock the dead and dance on their graves is depraved," Mr Black said.
"It was designed in my mind, it was designed to cause maximum hurt and it's done its job in spades. Bessbrook [where the victims were from] is really hurting."
DUP leader Arlene Foster expressed her anger on Twitter.
"Kingsmill victims were shot by the IRA after being asked their religion," she said.
"Shame on any elected rep who posted that inhuman video. I feel sorry for IRA victims & West Tyrone who have McElduff as their MP. All murder was wrong. Glorifying any murderer is sickening. Mocking is depraved."
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long tweeted Mr McElduff: "I see you have deleted your video. Will you also explain what on earth you were thinking of, posting this on the anniversary of the Kingsmills Massacre?
"Have you any apology to make to those victims & survivors deeply hurt by your antics whether deliberate or not?"
On Saturday morning, Mr McElduff deleted the post and issued a public apology.
"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," he said.
"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 West Tyrone MP later posted on social media expressing his willingness to meet with the Kingsmill victims’ families.
He wrote: "Mindful of unintended hurt caused to victims' families I would be very willing to meet with Kingsmill Massacre families if they were willing."
Others, however, were sceptical of Mr McElduff’s excuse and apology.
TUV leader Jim Allister said it stretched the "bounds of credibility well beyond breaking point" to suggest the video was not a deliberate reference to the Kingsmill attack.
"Sinn Fein's utter contempt for victims is clearly on display here," he said.
"Any talk of equality or human rights from that party is once again exposed as so much cant and hypocrisy."
Colin Worton, whose brother Kenneth was one of those murdered at Kingsmill, said he did not accept McElduff's apology.
"His apology, no I don't accept it. It's not a heart-felt apology," he said.
"He's not sorry for the video that he's posted, he's sorrier for what's happened in the aftermath.
"If there's any decency left in McElduff's DNA he should resign."
SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan said: “Barry McElduff styles himself as a class clown but clearly this time his comments have, deliberately or not, crossed a line. It’s right that he has apologised.
“Mr McElduff clearly gave no thought to the Kingsmills victims.
“You have to ask, though, why does the MP for West Tyrone have time to film himself running around with a loaf on his head during one of the most unstable periods in the recent history of this island.”
Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann also took aim at Sinn Féin's Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, who 'liked' and shared his party colleague's video, and northern leader Michelle O'Neill for her silence on the issue.
"As a former Executive Minister, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir needs to explain himself. As a self-proclaimed social media guru he knew exactly what his 'like & retweet' signalled," he said.
"He cannot escape the spotlight. And what has the leader of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland, Michelle O`Neill, got to say about this? She has been conspicuously silent."
Mr Ó Muilleoir later apologised for retweeting the original video.
“I saw Barry’s tweet as being wholly apolitical and retweeted it on that basis,” he said.
“Once it was pointed out that the tweet had offended and hurt people and that Barry had rightly deleted his tweet, I retweeted his apology and, of course, apologise unreservedly for the pain and hurt caused by my retweet.”
Southern Labour leader Brendan Howlin also joined in the criticism.
"The awful Kingsmill posts by Barry McElduff show how far Sinn Féin still have to travel. Mary Lou must make clear that this is unacceptable at any level," he wrote.
The PSNI have also said they are investigating the video and a petition calling for Mr McElduff to resign had by last night garnered more than 10,000 signatures.