Northern Ireland

Criticism after 'angry' Martina Anderson 'Tiocfaidh ár lá' speech at hunger strike rally

Martina Anderson addressing a hunger strike commemoration in Strabane
Martina Anderson addressing a hunger strike commemoration in Strabane

SINN Féin's Martina Anderson has faced criticism from unionists and the Alliance Party for a rousing speech in which she warned the British government its "days in Ireland were numbered".

The MEP made the address on Sunday at the National Hunger Strike Commemoration in Strabane, Co Tyrone.

The guest speaker at the event launched a stinging attack on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and concluded her speech by shouting "Tiocfaidh ár lá" several times to much applause.

The crowd at the annual event included Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, her predecessor Gerry Adams and the party's deputy leader Michelle O’Neill.

Ms Anderson said republicans were sceptical about the British government’s claim that it does not want a hard border after Brexit.

“Why don’t we believe you?” the MEP said.

“Because you’ve lied your way through every land and to every people you’ve occupied and oppressed – and you can lie all you want but we know the truth, and the truth is that your days in Ireland are numbered; as the prisoners, as the blanket men, as the protesting women, as the hunger strikers proclaimed in the face of all that pointless British brutality above which they rose with such dignity.”

The former IRA prisoner yesterday updated her Twitter profile picture to show her clenching a fist defiantly as she addressed the Strabane crowd.

But Ms Anderson's DUP counterpart Diane Dodds said Sinn Féin was sending a "mixed message to the next generation".

"From one side of their mouth they say ‘bombers in 2019 are bad' but at the same time speak from the other side to say 'bombers in 1972 were good'," she said.

"Sinn Féin’s Sunday afternoon eulogies of people who believed in, and in some cases were convicted of, terrorism stands in stark contrast to the dignity of innocent victims who lost loved ones as a result of bombs and bullets."

Mrs Dodds also accused of "exploiting the fears of genuine border communities".

"The government has given an unconditional commitment to avoiding new physical infrastructure – even under a no deal," she said.

"Sinn Féin’s bombast about closing border roads and bridges would be best directed to the Irish government and Brussels who now wield the greatest threat of a hard border."

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie took to Twitter to describe the speech as "rhetorical garbage", while Alliance MLA John Blair called on the MEP to "show more respect and display leadership".

"These are deeply unhelpful comments from Martina Anderson that will do nothing but divide our society further,” he said.

"For anyone in our society who identifies as British and who is told by Sinn Féin they will be welcome in a united Ireland, this speech will be seen as nothing but offensive and hyperbolic rhetoric."