DUP MP Gregory Campbell has defended his social media post which claimed Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney was “more successful at electioneering that he was at hunger striking”.
Speaking to the News Letter after Sinn Fein called for him to withdraw his comments on social media, Mr Campbell said: “Irish Republicans really don’t get it”.
“The origins of the ‘Raymond McCartney hunger strike saga’ from 1980 have been raised by myself and others on numerous occasions. There is a short video clip still available on Youtube where McCartney says ‘We are prepared to go through with this, we are prepared to die’.
“Whatever way they try and express pretend outrage, the cold hard fact is that he didn’t do either. He didn’t ‘go through with it’ or ‘die’. In simple terms this means he failed, that is why many years ago I coined the term ‘failed hunger striker’ to describe Raymond McCartney.”
Mr Campbell added: “I have been lambasted by republicans for rightly criticising their past tactics, on this occasion, given that McCartney managed to get elected despite SF’s poor electoral performance I merely drew attention to the distinction between his failure at hunger striking and his success at electioneering.
“So they take offence when I criticise them and when I offer some humorous ‘encouragement’ they take offence as well.”
Mr McCartney - a former republican prisoner who took part in a hunger strike in 1980 - was elected as an MLA to Foyle on Saturday. He has been an MLA for Foyle since 2004
On Saturday Mr Campbell wrote on Facebook: “Excellent election results. SF long term plan just got an awful lot longer. I am breaking the habit of a lifetime to send best wishes to Raymond McCartney Shinner MLA in Foyle, why you may ask??
Because he’s a bit more successful at electioneering than he was at hunger striking.”
Later, also on Facebook he posted: “I am now informed that scores of republicans have been sharing my earlier post about the failed hunger striker Raymond McCartney. The bile, hatred and bigotry is seeping through. So they condemn me when I criticise the shinners and now when I seek to congratulate one on being more successful at electioneering than at hunger striking they still condemn me. Honestly, with some people you just can’t win.”
Sinn Féin’s Pat Sheehan - who was also a hunger striker - said the East Londonderry MP should “withdraw his remarks immediately”.
“These comments attributed to Gregory Campbell on social media in relation to my friend and comrade Raymond McCartney are vile and disgusting,” the west Belfast MLA said.
“Not only was it offensive towards a democratically elected public representative, it also insults the memory of all of those who died on hunger strike and who are held in such high esteem around the world. “I would call on Gregory Campbell to withdraw these remarks immediately.”
And on BBC’s Sunday Politics programme Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd also called Mr Campbell “a fool”.
“We’re talking, ourselves and the DUP, about going into discuss a programme of government and having mutual respect, mutual trust and mutual understanding within that,” he said.
“But Gregory Campbell is a fool, and he’s away to Westminster to retire.
“And I wish him well staying over there out of the road.”
He said that Mr Campbell was a “loose cannon in the DUP” and he “doesn’t represent” the vast majority in the party.