Mary Lou McDonald declines to condemn IRA murder bid on DUP leader’s father

Sinn Fein’s president has declined to condemn the IRA’s attempted murder of DUP leader Arlene Foster’s late father.

Ms Foster had called on the republican party to condemn the attack on her father, John Kelly, at the family’s farm in Co Fermanagh in 1979.

The policeman survived despite being shot in the head.

Her call came amid a row about loyalist banners that have appeared in the North Belfast constituency, making a series of allegations against Sinn Fein candidate John Finucane and his family, including his solicitor father Pat, who was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries during the conflict.

Referencing Sinn Fein’s criticism of the banners, on Tuesday Ms Foster accused the party of being selective on what it will condemn, asking would it also condemn the attempted murder of her father, and of DUP leader Nigel Dodds.

In 1996, a policeman was shot and injured when the IRA tried to murder Mr Dodds as he visited his seriously ill son in the Royal Children’s Hospital in west Belfast.

Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds
Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds

Mary Lou McDonald was asked twice at a press conference at Stormont on Thursday whether she would respond to Ms Foster’s call for the party to condemn the shooting of her father.

The Sinn Fein leader declined to specifically condemn the incident on both occasions.

“Of course, in the course of the conflict very many people were hurt, and I regret all of that. If I wrote the history books, it wouldn’t look like this,” she said.

Ms McDonald highlighted that Ms Foster’s remarks were in response to the row about the posters targeting Mr Finucane.

A similar loyalist poster has been erected in South Belfast criticising SDLP candidate Claire Hanna.

Ms McDonald urged the DUP not to engage in “whataboutery” in response to the banners.

Asked about Ms Foster’s remarks, she replied: “I understand those comments came up in relation to the awful banners that have been posted in respect of Claire Hanna, but more particularly in respect of John Finucane – banners that are menacing and that, to my mind, clearly articulate a threat to him.

“I think that’s deeply unacceptable. There are no such banners, nor should there be, directed at any unionist candidate or leader, and I think in that context we have to remind ourselves that this election is about the future, it’s not about the past.

“I think Arlene Foster and all of her colleagues should be unequivocal and shouldn’t engage in any form of whataboutery in terms of these banners.”

She added: “I hope that the election proceeds in a way that demonstrates more civility and calm and political respect than we have seen heretofore in some quarters.”

John Finucane
John Finucane

Ms McDonald accused the DUP of trying to distract people from its role in Brexit.

“I would say, though, to the DUP, that this election is about Brexit, I know they don’t like that, I know they would like us to talk about any other subject under the sun other than Brexit, but that’s what the talk on the doorsteps is, it’s about the future, it’s about how we proceed in the here and now,” she said.

Ms McDonald added that the “most constrictive thing” that the Stormont parties could do would be to restore powersharing.

“That’s the ultimate expression of respect for everybody right across our society,” she said.