Northern Ireland news

Dáil committee split following comments by chairman Brian Stanley

Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley

TAOISEACH Micheál Martin said he was “shocked and dismayed” after a senior Sinn Féin figure tweeted controversial remarks about IRA attacks that resulted in the deaths of British soldiers and police.

Brian Stanley later deleted the tweet which was posted on the centenary of the Kilmichael Ambush during which 17 members of the RIC auxiliary were shot dead in November 1920.

The TD, who chairs the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee, also referred to a double IRA bomb attack that claimed the lives of 18 British soldiers at Narrow Water, near Warrenpoint in Co Down in 1979.

He wrote that the two attacks were "IRA operations that taught the elite of the British army and the establishment the cost of occupying Ireland.

"Pity for everyone they were such slow learners," he added.

Mr Martin said the tweet “speaks to a narrative within Sinn Féin that always seeks to justify its past, always seeks to justify what it did and has no contrition really in terms of the appalling loss of life that happened over 30 years.”

“One should never mock people in terms of the deaths of loved ones and there are many, many families who lost their sons in that attack at Narrow Water,” he said.

Mr Martin said Mr Stanley was “a very senior member of the party, it was clearly a premeditated tweet, it was left there for some time and worse, it was endorsed by many, many members and supporters of Sinn Féin.”

“This now does huge damage in terms of reconciliation. It erodes trust in terms of, ‘are people really genuine within Sinn Féin about reconciliation?' or, ‘is it all about victory: we were right, you were wrong, we won, you lost' type of narrative,” he told the Irish Times.

His comments came as Fine Gael TD and former minister for justice Charlie Flanagan has called for a Dáil statement to condemn Mr Stanley's comments.

It has now emerged that members of the Dail's PAC are divided on the controversy.

Committee vice-chair and Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said Mr Stanley's reaction has not been sufficient and there cannot be "business as usual" at tomorrow's PAC meeting.

Fine Gael's Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, who sits on the committee, told Today with Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio 1 that the Sinn Féin man should recuse himself as chair.

However, other committee members have rejected this including Fianna Fáil's Marc MacSharry who said that while the remarks were inappropriate and insensitive, Mr Stanley was a good chair and should not resign.

Alex Blair, whose 23-year-old brother Donald was killed at Narrow Water, said Mr Stanley should be disciplined by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, and be removed as PAC chairman.

Seadhna Logan, a member of the Sinn Féin ard comhairle defended his colleague on Twitter.

"Lot of faux outrage in media on Brian Stanley's tweets but lets be clear, while the wording could have been more polished the sentiment was correct," he wrote.

"I proudly commemorate and remember those that struck a blow for freedom."

Speaking in the Stormont assembly yesterday, Michelle O'Neill, Sinn Féin's vice-president, said it was right Mr Stanley had apologised for the tweet.

"There is an onus on political leadership to do our utmost to move society on...and conduct politics in a way that threatens no-one."

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