Barry McElduff resigns nine days after Kingsmill video
West Tyrone MP Barry McElduff said it was with "great sadness" that he was resigning one week after being handed a three month suspension for tweeting a video in which he balanced a Kingsmill loaf on his head.
He said: “After more than 30 years as an active Sinn Féin member and public representative I am tendering my resignation as MP for West Tyrone.
“The reason I am doing so is because of the consequences of the Twitter video which has caused such controversy over the last week.
“But the deep and unnecessary hurt this video caused the families of the victims of Kingsmill is my greatest regret.
He posted the video on the 42nd anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre in which ten Protestant workmen were killed.
The abstentionist West Tyrone MP later apologised for the tweet and insisted he did not intend to cause offence.
Amid widespread outcry, Sinn Féin northern leader Michelle O'Neill described the video as "ill-judged" and "indefensible".
Just been with Alan Black. He says, “I’m not on a crusade. I’ve done what I’ve done up to now to protect the memory of the boys and to try to protect their families. But he (Barry McElduff) did the right thing stepping down I won’t be speaking publicly about Kingsmills again.”— Gordon Adair (@gordonadair) January 15, 2018
But the sanction imposed on Mr McElduff was widely criticised for its leniency. Alan Black, the sole survivor of the 1976 atrocity, rejected the apology and called on the MP to resign, while concern was voiced across the political spectrum. Mr McElduff resigned hours after Mr Black gave a powerful interview on RTE radio in which he accused the MP of celebrating the Kingsmill deaths.
The sole survivor of the attack, Alan Black, welcomed the resignation.
He told the Press Association: "This past week has been truly awful for me. I am just hanging by a thread.
"But I am glad he has done the right thing."
Mr Black said the fall-out from the Twitter video forced him to re-live the trauma of the attack in which he was shot 18 times.
"I am going to have to take time now to heal," he said.
"I only got involved because of the hurt and disrespect shown to my friends who died at Kingsmill but this whole thing has taken a heavy toll."
Sinn Fein members for the most part were not aware of Barry McElduff's intention to resign. Seems to be a decision he took himself over the weekend. He has said he 'does not want to be a barrier to reconciliation'.— Ryan McAleer (@RyanMcAleerUH) January 15, 2018
Ms O'Neill said that Mr McElduff told her last night of his decision to step down and that he was doing so because he recognised his continuing role in public office is compounding the distress to the victims of Kingsmill.
.@moneillsf says she has told Máirtín Ó Muilleoir @newbelfast to be more responsible on social media re: his retweet of @BarryMcElduff video, but indicated no further action will be taken against him - “That is the matter dealt with”. @PA pic.twitter.com/nsu1s58w0E— David Young (@DavidYoungPA) January 15, 2018
“Barry has served Sinn Féin and been a formidable champion for the people of West Tyrone at local government, Assembly and Westminster level over the past 20 years and has done so with great commitment, energy and determination.
“For this I want to personally thank Barry and his family, Paula, Niamh, Blannid and Patrick.
DUP leader Arlene Foster said that he was not fit for office and should have resigned in the "immediate aftermath of posting the disgraceful video and insulting the horrific terrorist events at Kingsmill."
She added: "Over the course of the last ten days Sinn Féin has failed to deal with the McElduff situation. By merely suspending him and continuing to pay him they compounded his disgraceful actions and demonstrated a lack of respect and compassion for the victims of Kingsmill and indeed victims more widely. Sinn Féin got this badly wrong."
Barry McElduff annouced his resignation this morning:
Video courtesy of RTÉ
In his resignation statement Mr McElduff said: “I again offer my profound apology to those families and to the wider victims community.
“Had I been conscious of the connection to the terrible atrocity at Kingsmill I would certainly not have posted that tweet. I genuinely did not make that connection, not for a second did I make that connection in my mind.
“Kingsmill was wrong, unjustifiable and sectarian. It should never have happened.
“There was no intended reference to Kingsmill in my tweet. But I do accept that there are many people who do not believe this to be the case. I accept also that this view of what happened is deeply damaging to the reconciliation process that is so important to consolidating the peace process and to healing the pain and hurt of the past.
“I cannot undo the pain caused but I know that my continuing role as MP for West Tyrone will compound that sense of hurt and impede any reconciliation process.
“I wish to wholeheartedly thank my family and friends for their steadfast personal support during this difficult time, and the people of West Tyrone whom I have had the privilege to serve as their public representative for over 20 years. I have a deep gra for my native county and its people.
West Tyrone set for a by election but there is unlikely to be any surprises- Sinn Fein has one of the biggest majorities in parliament in that constituency #barrymcelduff— Rebecca Black (@RBlackBT) January 15, 2018
Less than 72 hours after being sanctioned by his party, the Sinn Féin representative was behind his desk and dealing with constituents' issues.
The revelation prompted a further wave of criticism over Sinn Féin's handling of the deeply embarrassing episode.
Mr McElduff said he did not wish to be a barrier to reconciliation.
“I am an Irish republican," he said, "and believe whole heartedly in the reunification of our country and an agreed Ireland in which we heal the wounds of the past together.
“Reconciliation is essential, but that message is not being heard at this time.
“I do not wish to be a barrier to reconciliation and healing and in that spirit I again offer my sincere apologies to the survivors and families of those murdered at Kingsmill.”