Barry McElduff suspended by Sinn Féin for three months for 'hurt and pain' caused to Kingsmill families
Sinn Féin MP Barry McElduff has been suspended from all party activity for three months over a social media video which showed him posing with a Kingsmill-branded loaf on his head on the anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre.
Mr McElduff said he understood his party's decision to suspend him for three months for the "unnecessary hurt and pain" caused to the Kingsmill families.
.@BarryMcElduff says he accepts his three month suspension from Sinn Fein for Kingsmill loaf video and again offers “deep and sincere apology” for “unintended hurt” he caused victims. @PA pic.twitter.com/bdSpZ4yuYJ— David Young (@DavidYoungPA) January 8, 2018
The under pressure MP held a meeting with the party leadership to explain a video of him with a Kingsmill-branded loaf on his head on the anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre.
Following the meeting he said in a statement:
"Although I 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.
"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 this morning described Barry McElduff's social media post as "inexcusable and indefensible".
Party chairman Declan Kearney said the West Tyrone MP had fallen well short of the standards Sinn Féin expects of its members.
Sinn Fein president @GerryAdamsSF has just left party offices in west Belfast where @BarryMcElduff is currently inside discussing the fallout from his controversial Kingsmill loaf video. @PA pic.twitter.com/maK5QF8uuZ— David Young (@DavidYoungPA) January 8, 2018
Mr McElduff has apologised for the post, insisting it was not meant as a reference to the republican murders of 10 Protestant workmen in 1976.
He had been summoned to meet senior party figures, including Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill and party president Gerry Adams, at party offices in west Belfast.
This afternoon Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty said he did not believe Mr McElduff should resign.
"The Kingsmill massacre was a terrible tragedy... and we should always be mindful of the families, and there's no doubt that this upset them terribly and it was a silly thing Barry McElduff did, but I don't think he intended to hurt the families," Mr Doherty told RTE Raidio na Gaeltachta.
Mr Doherty said he did not believe there was any intent behind the video.
"I don't think he should resign, I don't think he did it to upset the families or draw attention to the matter, it was just a stupid thing he did," he said.
"But he should have known better, as an MP, that that particular day (the anniversary) and that that was very important."
The well-known Kingsmill brand of bread shares a name with the south Armagh village that witnessed one of the most notorious incidents of the Troubles, when gunmen stopped a van carrying textile workers on their way home, identified the Protestant occupants, lined them up at the side of the road and shot them.
Before Monday's meeting, Mr Kearney became the first senior leadership figure to comment on the weekend furore.
"What has happened is absolutely inexcusable and indefensible and the party is taking this matter very seriously indeed," he said.
He added that Sinn Féin wished to express "deep and sincere regret".
"What happened is absolutely irresponsible," he told BBC Radio Ulster.
"Barry McElduff has already made an unreserved apology and that was the correct thing to do in the circumstances.
"The reality is huge offence has been caused and I and Sinn Fein strongly disapprove of what has happened."
Mr Kearney said Sinn Féin accepted that the incident had caused "maximum hurt" to the Kingsmill families.
"Sinn Féin expects the highest standards of not only our members but also our very senior elected representatives and what has happened here clearly falls well short of those standards," he added.
Sinn Féin's former Stormont finance minister, Mairtin O Muilleoir, has also apologised for retweeting the video.
Mr Kearney said Mr O Muilleoir had offered the party an explanation for the retweet.
The storm around the social media post is threatening to further disrupt faltering efforts to re-establish a powersharing executive at Stormont, with the DUP characterising it as an affront to victims.
Mr McElduff has offered to meet relatives of the sectarian outrage but a number of them, including the only survivor of the gun attack, Alan Black, have rejected the invitation outright.
The PSNI is examining the video after receiving a number of complaints, while the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards at Westminster has also been alerted.
In the short video, Mr McElduff, who is known for his light-hearted social media contributions, is filmed walking around a shop with a Kingsmill loaf on his head, asking where the store kept the bread.
It was posted around the 42nd anniversary of the Kingsmill outrage.
He has faced multiple calls to resign in the wake of the controversy. On Saturday the republican MP deleted the video and apologised.
"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."
Mr Black, who survived the gun attack despite being shot 18 times, rejected Mr McElduff's apology.
"It was like a punch to the stomach, it was so callous," he said of the video.
"To mock the dead and dance on their graves is depraved."