Northern Ireland news

Angry backlash over tweet prompts Martina Anderson apology

Martina Anderson said she 'unreservedly apologised' for an offensive tweet. Picture by Mal McCann

SINN Féin MLA Martina Anderson bowed to pressure yesterday and apologised for a "highly insulting" social media post in which she claimed the Troubles pension scheme was "mainly for those who fought Britain's dirty war".

The tweet on Tuesday evening was met with a storm of criticism and was deleted five hours after being posted following an intervention by Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O'Neill.

However, it was mid-morning yesterday when the Sinn Féin press office issued an apology on behalf of Ms Anderson.

Ms O'Neill told her colleague that the tweet, which among other things said payments would mostly go to "those involved in collusion", was "ill considered and would cause hurt and offence to victims".

The contentious tweet also claimed the pension scheme would "discriminate, criminalise and exclude" those with paramilitary convictions.

The former MEP's statement said she "apologised unreservedly for the hurt and offence caused by my tweet to people who suffered serious harm during the conflict here".

"My comments were clumsy, were not directed at them and it was never my intention to cause them any hurt," she said.

"All victims of the conflict deserve acknowledgement of their pain and loss, and I support them in their efforts to get their pension."

Ms O'Neill welcomed the apology and said "all victims deserve acknowledgement of their loss and pain".

"I and we in Sinn Fein support them in their efforts to get what they are entitled to," she said.

In the aftermath of the apology only the Ulster Unionist Party and TUV issued reactions.

Previously, DUP MLA Gary Middleton, who also represents Ms Anderson's Foyle constituency, had called on her to resign her assembly seat.

He described the tweet as "deeply offensive".

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the Sinn Féin ard chomhairle member's remarks were "disgusting and grossly insulting to hundreds of victims"

UUP Upper Bann MLA Doug Beattie acknowledged the apology but said it "only materialised when it became clear that the offence caused was so widespread and so indefensible".

He said a number of Sinn Féin's claims about the pension were "utterly false".

TUV leader Jim Allister said Sinn Féin MP Barry McElduff had resigned "after laughing in the face of victims".

"Will Anderson be shown the door of the assembly?" he said.

Alan McBride, co-ordinator of the WAVE Trauma centre, and whose wife Sharon was murdered in the 1993 IRA Shankill bombing, said Ms Anderson's comments were "highly insulting and insensitive" to the people he works with.

"Our lives were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, they were horrifically maimed, not one of them was involved in anything," Mr McBride said.

"They were maimed by republicans, they were maimed by loyalists, they were maimed by the state.

"They fought a very long campaign to get this pension over the line and following the elation from Friday's court case to have this nonsense now come out from Martina Anderson I think is highly insulting.

"So I hope she has the moral courage to apologise for the hurt she has caused."

Jennifer McNern, who lost both legs in an IRA bomb attack on the Abercorn Restaurant in 1972 and brought last week's High Court action over the delay in introducing a Troubles' pension scheme, said victims have campaigned for more than a decade for people who have been injured through no fault of their own.

"If you see the people who are applying for this pension - they are blind, they are paralysed and they are amputees," she told the BBC.

"That is the people who will avail of this pension when it opens."

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