The son of a southern prison officer murdered by the IRA has accused Sinn Fein’s deputy leader of “hypocrisy” for sympathising with victims of the Manchester bomb attack.
Austin Stack’s father Brian, who was chief prison officer at Portlaoise Prison, was shot in the back of the neck by the IRA as he left a boxing match in 1983. He died 18 months later.
Austin has now challenged Mary Lou McDonald after she sent a tweet in support of victims of Monday night’s suicide bomb attack at Manchester Arena. The attack killed 22 people and injured many more.
She tweeted: “Devastating news from Manchester. Thoughts with those who have died or are injured, with their families & the citizens of this great city.”
But Mr Stack slammed Ms McDonald in light of the IRA’s track record in Manchester; in 1996 it exploded the UK’s biggest bomb since World War II in the city, ripping its heart out and injuring 200 people.
In 1992 two bombs from the terror` group injured 65 people.
He tweeted in response to Ms McDonald: “Cynical hypocrisy from the Provos, media need to call them out on this!!”
Mr Stack, 48, has strong family ties to Manchester and has been a frequent visitor since he was five, in earlier years with his late father.
“Manchester is a special place for me and I am season ticket holder for Manchester United for almost 30 years,” he told the News Letter.
“Manchester is a place that I frequent quite often.
“I particularly remember the devastation after the 1996 bomb. I was over a couple of days after that.
“I was completely sickened by what I saw.
“So when I see the likes of Mary Lou McDonald tweeting her sympathies to the people of Manchester who were injured and killed, it is particularly sickening because she has never in any way, shape or form attempted to condemn any bombings or murders that the IRA have carried out.
“If you look at the  Manchester bomb, the Warrington bomb, the Birmingham bombs and those in London to name a few, there were many young people in those bombs and Mary Lou McDonald never attempted to condemn any of those bombs.
“She has spent her political career trying to justify those actions and the actions of the IRA.
“She recently unveiled a memorial to Martin McGuinness, his headstone at his grave, on which the primary point was [that] Martin McGuinness was what they described as a [IRA] volunteer.
“So from that perspective Mary Lou McDonald has made her political career justifying terrorism.”
He did not sense any hostility towards Irish people in the city as a result of the 1996 IRA bomb attack.
“I suppose that is because there is such a big Irish community in Manchester. Maybe the people in Manchester were more clued in than the vast majority of people and understood that 99.9% of the Irish people had no truck with the IRA.
“At the time Sinn Fein were polling two and three per cent in elections down here.”
A Sinn Fein spokesperson responded: “The attack at the Manchester arena which has left 22 dead, 12 of which are children, was wrong and must be condemned in the strongest terms.
“Our thoughts are with the families and friends of all those who have lost loved ones and those who were injured.”