Northern Ireland

Michelle O’Neill ‘sorry for all the lives lost during the conflict’ in response to request for republican apology

The Sinn Fein vice president says she did not know Scappaticci and was a child when the events occurred

Michelle O'Neill apologised for all lives lost during the conflict"

First Minister Michelle O’Neill responded to the report into Operation Kenova by saying she is “sorry for all the lives lost during the conflict”.

The Sinn Féin vice-president called for an apology from the British government, which had earlier signaled that there would be no comment on the detail of the report until the final version was published.

The report found that the actions of the British agent known as Stakeknife, who was head of the IRA’s internal security unit Freddie Scappaticci, probably cost more lives than he saved.

It recommended both the British government and the republican leadership, on behalf of the IRA, apologise to victims.

In a what appeared to be a carefully prepared statement, Ms O’Neill said her thoughts were “foremost with all those families whose loved ones were killed”.

She said past “injustices and tragedies” had left a “deep legacy of suffering and trauma” in society.

“We must never forget those who have died or been injured, and their families,” she said.

“I am sorry for all the lives lost during the conflict, without exception.”

The Operation Kenova report at Stormont Hotel on Friday. The investigation took seven years to examine the activities of agent "Stakeknife", who was Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci.
Kenova Report Chief Constable Jon Boutcher oversaw Operation Kenova. PICTURE COLM LENAGHAN

And she added: “I didn’t know Freddy Scappaticci. A lot of these things were before I was born even or whilst I was a child, so as someone who is today a Good Friday Agreement generation leader, my eyes are focused on trying to help people to deal with the past but very much around building our better future.”

The first minister said the “suffering, the hurt or the political violence of the conflict” could not be disowned by republicans.

“People’s lives from every section of the community were trespassed upon during the conflict by British state forces, republicans, loyalists and unimaginable grief, hurt, pain and suffering was inflicted,” she said.

Ms O’Neill described herself as representing “the Good Friday Agreement generation”.

“A generation born into conflict, but who are now in a position, because of that Agreement 26 years ago to build the future in a time of peace,” she said.

“This is something we can never take for granted. The hurt and the pain caused must never again be repeated.”

In a separate statement, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said she was sorry for “all the lives lost during the conflict and the hurt and loss endured, without exception”.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson questioned whether the £40m spent on the inquiry into the activities of Stakeknife may have been spent on what he termed “pro-active policing today”.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said apologies would “never be enough” but were a “starting point for the Republican movement and the British government”.

“Vague or general sadness are, I am afraid, deficient and will be viewed as such by victims and survivors,” he said.