Sinn Fein leader Michelle O’Neill backed party colleague and law lecturer Peter Doran who has faced criticism for not condemning the IRA murder of another legal academic Edgar Graham during the Troubles.
Lagan Valley Sinn Fein candidate Mr Doran, a law academic at Queen’s University in Belfast, last week declined to condemn the 1983 IRA murder of rising Ulster Unionist politician and Queen’s law lecturer Edgar Graham. Mr Doran instead expressed “profound sorrow” at Mr Graham’s death.
Mrs O’Neill defended her party colleague’s position.
“I regret we had any loss of life, I regret that there was a conflict and I recognise everybody’s hurt and suffering and nobody’s is any different, everybody feels the same pain and hurt whenever they have been bereaved in a conflict,” she said.
The Sinn Fein leader added: “I think Peter has answered it – he has said he had profound sorrow. His position would also be that he regrets all loss of life in the conflict.”
Mrs O’Neill also urged those who were angered by her attendance at an IRA commemoration to understand that she has a different perspective on the past.
“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.”