Michelle O’Neill has urged those who were angered by her attendance at an IRA commemoration to understand that she has a different perspective on the past.
Sinn Fein’s leader in Northern Ireland said forging reconciliation relied not on everyone agreeing to the same narrative of the Troubles, but on people respecting that different opinions on the conflict will always exist.
Mrs O’Neill was the main speaker at an event in her home village of Clonoe last Thursday to mark the 25th anniversary of the deaths of four IRA men shot dead by the SAS in 1992 when they were ambushed after carrying out a machine gun attack on a police station.
Unionist politicians and relatives of IRA victims denounced her attendance, claiming it undermined her pledges to work for reconciliation.
“Everybody has a right to remember their dead no matter who you are or what your political perspective is,” said Mrs O’Neill.
“We all have a different narrative and we’ll always have a different narrative and people have a different perspective on the past.
“Our job is to respect that difference, we won’t agree on the narrative of the past but we can agree to accept that everybody has a different narrative and then we can start to build the bridges of the past and try to make a better future.”
She said her attendance at the Clonoe commemoration should not have come as a “surprise”.
“I am a republican, that’s not a secret,” she said.
“I did know these young fellas personally and I know their families and friends and I know the community they came from, so I don’t think people should be surprised I was there.”
The Mid Ulster election candidate added: “There is no hierarchy of victims - nobody’s grief is more than anyone else’s and everybody deserves to be respected.”