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Sinn Féin should reflect on its handling of Barry McElduff case

Sinn Féin will be hoping that Barry McElduff's resignation as West Tyrone MP will draw a line under a controversy that was not only damaging to the party but, more importantly, caused deep hurt and offence to those who have already suffered so much.

To its credit, the party had moved quickly following Mr McElduff's crass and insensitive tweet showing him posing with a Kingsmill loaf on his head on the 42nd anniversary of the massacre that left ten Protestant workmen dead.

Sinn Féin chairman Declan Kearney was particularly outspoken, calling the MP's actions 'indefensible'.

However, when it came to imposing a sanction, the three month suspension on full pay for an abstentionist politician which also allowed Mr McElduff to continue working at his constituency office, was widely criticised as being too lenient.

Comparisons were drawn with the Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín who was suspended for six months for voting against the party line on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill in 2013.

Mr McElduff is known for his social media jokes and insists he had no intention of insulting victims but the best that could be said is that he showed extremely poor judgment.

It clearly did not help his position when former minister John O'Dowd, who lost three family members the night before Kingsmill, expressed clear dismay at the hurt caused by his party colleague.

At the end of what was a difficult week for Sinn Féin, the powerful and moving interview by Kingsmill sole survivor Alan Black on RTE may well have tipped the scales in favour of a clean break.

If nothing else, the events of last week should underline to all political parties the need to be mindful of victims' feelings and that even unintentional offence can still cause immense pain to those who have been through terrible trauma.

Sinn Féin should reflect on its handling of the Barry McElduff case which undoubtedly undermined its campaign for equality and respect in our society.

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