SINN Fein’s protest over the arrest of senior party official Padraic Wilson after he was charged in connection with Robert McCartney’s murder undermines the party’s criticism of dissident republicans, Fianna Fail’s leader has said.
Micheal Martin, who was foreign minister in the last Irish government, has been increasingly outspoken about the IRA past of many leading Sinn Fein figures as the party has made significant electoral gains in the Republic.
In a blistering attack on the actions of Sinn Fein over the past week, Mr Martin said that he was staggered to watch as the party urged nationalists to give the police information about the murder of David Black while at the same time protesting outside PSNI headquarters over the arrest of senior Sinn Fein official Padraic Wilson.
Mr Wilson was arrested last week and charged in connection with an alleged IRA meeting to discuss the 2005 murder of Robert McCartney, though there is no suggestion that he was involved in the murder. Last Friday a magistrate remanded Mr Wilson in custody, saying that she was concerned that he could interfere with witnesses.
However, Sinn Fein reacted furiously, with Gerry Kelly demanding his colleague’s immediate release and leading a 300-strong Sinn Fein protest outside PSNI headquarters on Monday.
The following day Mr Wilson was freed on bail by the High Court after a judge accepted there were no grounds to believe he would interfere with witnesses.
Mr Martin told BBC Northern Ireland’s The View programme: “I think that Sinn Fein have a problem in terms of their credibility in attacking activities of the Real IRA and the so-called dissident republicans.”
He added: “When I was travelling up to the funeral of David Black...I listened with incredulity really at the campaign that Sinn Fein mounted outside PSNI headquarters against the arrest of Padraic Wilson in relation to the McCartney murder.
“This is at the very same time that the PSNI are looking for people to cooperate with them in terms of finding the killers of prison officer David Black.
“How can you on the one hand condemn that activity, ask people to cooperate with the PSNI when on the very same day on the other side you’re campaigning outside PSNI headquarters and more or less saying that despite the fact that you’re a party of government you’re saying you actually decide who the PSNI should or shouldn’t arrest?
“I find that staggering, I find it incredible and it undermines that fundamental point that you made in terms of Sinn Fein’s credibility in really having a strong hand in condemning and undermining the work of the dissident republicans.”
He added: “We [in the Republic] would find it extraordinary if any justice spokesperson or indeed any minister for justice or leading member of a political party who was in government actually protested against his own police; against the police that you underpin, that are a central part of society, that are there to protect the citizen and uphold law and order. It’s just an extraordinary situation to behold really and you don’t have that luxury if you’re in government and you cannot if you’re in government undermine your own police force.”
In a statement, Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy hit back: “To dismiss calls by Sinn Fein for the killers of David Black to be brought to justice is disingenuous and is a crass attempt at political point scoring on the back of a very emotive issue.
“To try and link this and the calls for the release of Padraic Wilson following his politically motivated arrest is wrong.”