Sinn Fein’s leader has accused the DUP of forming electoral alliances with active loyalist paramilitaries.
Mary Lou McDonald made the claim as she rejected DUP criticism of a notorious IRA bomber working as a Sinn Fein canvasser in north Belfast.
Speaking ahead of her party conference at the weekend, Ms McDonald insisted Sean Kelly, who was convicted for his part in the 1993 Shankill bomb, was a supporter of the peace process and had expressed regret over the fish shop attack that killed nine Protestants.
“I won’t take a homily from the DUP around Sean Kelly or anybody else, given the alliances that they are drawing from and given the platforms that they are sitting on,” she told the PA news agency.
“I mean it’s the height of hypocrisy for the DUP to be on platforms with active loyalist paramilitaries involved in all kinds of criminality, and then to cast up a story around an individual who they know full well has backed, solidly backed, the peace over the last two decades.”
Ms McDonald acknowledged that there would be people in the Shankill who would be genuinely upset by Kelly’s involvement.
“I would say to those that are genuinely upset or troubled by that to bear in mind that Sean has stood four square with the peace process now for more than 20 years, that Sean has personally articulated his regret in respect of the Shankill bomb,” she said.
The Sinn Fein president said an element of the controversy had been contrived by the DUP.
“I think it’s important for all of us that we don’t walk ourselves into cul-de-sacs around the past that can’t really afford any comfort or resolution for victims and survivors and they just become party political platforms for people to have a go. I don’t think there’s any value in that,” she said.
“I’m not going to take a lecture from anybody in the DUP and I’d advise them to look in the mirror before pointing the finger at others.”
Controversy also flared ahead of the 2017 general election when it emerged that Kelly was canvassing for Sinn Fein in north Belfast.
Kelly was badly injured when the bomb, which the IRA claimed was meant to target a loyalist paramilitary meeting above the shop, detonated prematurely.
Fellow IRA bomber Thomas Begley died in the blast.