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Attention turns to by-election as Barry McElduff resigns over Kingsmill video

Barry McElduff said any reference to the Kingsmill atrocity in his video was inadvertent
John Manley and Brendan Hughes

ATTENTION turned last night to a potentially acrimonious Westminster by-election following the resignation of West Tyrone MP Barry McElduff over his Kingsmill video post.

As Sinn Féin faced further criticism over its decision to suspend the long-serving representative a week ago, it was suggested a figure from the victims community could stand as an agreed candidate against the party.

There were also calls to take action against South Belfast MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir for initially retweeting Mr McElduff's video.

Northern leader Michelle O'Neill said she had spoken to him about his use of social media but "that is the matter dealt with".

Mr McElduff's unexpected announcement yesterday that he was stepping down as MP came as as victims continued to describe their hurt at his actions.

The Carrickmore man sparked outrage when he posted a video on social media showing himself with a Kingsmill loaf on his head on the 42nd anniversary of the murder of 10 Protestants by republicans in south Armagh.

He insisted he had not been conscious of the connection and offered his "profound apology to those families and to the wider victims community".

Read more: West Tyrone by-election - Other parties consider forming by-election pact

Sinn Féin may decide to opt for surprise candidate in West Tyrone by-election

John Manley: Continuing Kingsmill controversy left Sinn Féin with no choice but to jettison McElduff

Allison Morris: The last week has been a shameful time in politics

A by-election in West Tyrone, which returned Mr McElduff with a huge majority last year, could be held in early March.

Amid speculation that Sinn Féin could look outside its pool of existing representatives for a "surprise candidate" with broader appeal, there were also calls for other parties to agree a single opponent.

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said a "non-partisan candidate who will be a voice for victims" should contest the seat, although the DUP's Gregory Campbell warned about doing "anything to turn Sinn Féin into a victim".

It is feared a potentially acrimonious election campaign could also hamper plans for a fresh round talks aimed at restoring devolution.

Barry McElduff announces his resignation:

 

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