John O’Dowd: There was a difference between Manchester bombs in 1996 and 2017

The 1996 IRA Manchester Bomb
The 1996 IRA Manchester Bomb

On this morning’s Stephen Nolan show Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd discussed what he believed were the differences between the bombing of Manchester last week by ISIS and in 1996 by the IRA.

His remarks came during an interview about his party’s election manifesto.

Mr O’Dowd said last Monday’s bomb at the Manchester Arena which killed 22 people had been used to score political points.

He commented: “Newspaper articles and journalists and political commentators all know there’s an election on. And I think it’s disgraceful that the horror of Manchester is being used as a political battering ram against opponents both on this island and on Britain as well.

“The deaths of those men, women and children are being used to score cheap political points in an election contest that’s going on.”

He added: “I’ll tell you what came into my mind when I heard about Manchester and the deliberate targeting of men, women and children.

“A week before Manchester was attacked was the anniversary of the Dublin/Monaghan bombings.”

Mr O’Dowd claimed the British Government were behind the bombings on May 17, 1974 which killed 33 civilians and a full-term unborn child, and injured almost 300.

He said: “Who can condemn Manchester? The British Government can’t because they bombed Dublin and Monaghan.”

Asked by Mr Nolan if he would condemn Manchester, Mr O’Dowd said: “I would and I have on your show.”

Asked then would he condemn the 1996 bomb by the IRA, Mr O’Dowd said: “I’m not going to get into that.”

When asked what the difference was between the bombings he said: “There is a difference. There was a conflict going on in Ireland at the time which many, many different players were involved in.

“The political context of the conflict on the island of Ireland is the difference.

“The political context of the peace process over this last 20 odd years is the difference.”

When Mr Nolan commented that Manchester bomber Salman Albedi had a political drive to do what he did, Mr O’Dowd said: “It doesn’t mean he’s right.

“Because you have a political drive to do something doesn’t make it right.”

When asked if that justified the IRA’s campaign, Mr O’Dowd said: “The IRA put forward an argument for their campaign.”

He added: “I’m not a spokesperson for the IRA.”

When asked again if he condemned the IRA bombing of 1996 in the same way he had condemned Albedi’s bombing, Mr O’Dowd suggested a group discussion involving all political parties to discuss the conflict in Ireland.

He commented: “The IRA bomb in Manchester didn’t happen in isolation.

“It is being used as an attempt to attack Sinn Fein and the Labour Party to try and divert attention from other aspects of the election campaign.”

He said differentiating between bombs was not just an uncomfortable reality for Sinn Fein, it was an uncomfortable reality for every politician in western Europe.