Sinn Fein’s moral authority to call for a show of solidarity with Iraqi victims of terrorism has been called into question.
Former IRA convict-turned-politician Jim McVeigh on Thursday called for Belfast City Council to publicly mark Sunday’s colossal bloodbath in Baghdad.
As of Thursday night, the BBC was reporting that the death toll from the atrocity – in which ISIS detonated a bomb at a shopping centre in the Iraqi capital – had risen to more than 280.
The longest-serving councillor in Belfast, UUP former Lord Mayor Jim Rodgers, suggested that the proposal smacked of “hypocrisy”, given the IRA’s past destruction of towns and cities in Northern Ireland and further afield.
In a statement, councillor McVeigh said City Hall should “be lit up in the Iraqi colours”, and a book of condolence opened for the dead.
The Sinn Fein council group leader – who was once the IRA’s most senior member inside the Maze, and who now represents the Court district in north-west Belfast – said of the atrocity: “It is the worst single attack carried out by those linked to ISIS in 2016.
“I have written to the mayor and all of the party leaders to ask for a book of condolence to be opened for these victims and for Belfast City Hall to be lit in the colours of the Iraqi flag.
“Council did this following ISIS attacks in Paris and Brussels and the recent homophobic gun attacks in Orlando.
“I hope the council will look favourably upon this proposal. As a city and civic leaders we must stand in solidarity with all the victims of these attacks wherever they occur.”
Councillor Rodgers, representing the Ormiston area of east Belfast – likewise voiced his sympathies for the relatives of those killed or hurt.
Speaking of Sinn Fein’s suggestion, he said: “This is the party whose military wing destroyed many places in Belfast, and – worse still – killed many of our citizens; Protestant, Roman Catholic, other religions, and those with none.
“Sometimes to me, they’d be hypocritical whenever you hear them coming out and trying to make things now look as if they were never involved in terrorism through the PIRA.”