There has been anger from unionist politicians over remarks from a senior Irish politician concerning the murder of David Black.
Eamon O’Cuiv, the former deputy leader of Fianna Fail, has drawn fire for remarks in which he claimed that prison authorities’ treatment of inmates was a contributory factor in the killing.
Speaking in the Dail on Wednesday, Mr O’Cuiv TD said “we must not forget that a decent and honest prison officer is now dead”, adding: “David Black was murdered because of the refusal on the part of people in authority to deal with the issues that resulted in a dirty protest that lasted 18 months. One can see the cause and effect.”
It is understood to be a reference to the recent dirty protests at Maghaberry over the issue of strip-searches for prisoners.
Mr O’Cuiv was quoted as making similar remarks to the Sunday Times yesterday, in which he made clear that “the terrorists are responsible” for pulling the trigger, but it would still be “foolish to ignore a contributory issue to the crime”.
Both main unionist parties spoke out against Mr O’Cuiv’s comments at the weekend.
Mike Nesbitt MLA, leader of the Ulster Unionists, said: “Eamon O’Cuiv’s comments are shocking, offensive and incredibly insensitive.
“For Eamon O’Cuiv to give succour to the terrorists who murdered David Black, in the very week that the Black family have to endure the emotional upheaval of two people being charged in connection with Mr Black’s murder, is beneath contempt.”
He called on the leader of Fianna Fail, Micheál Martin, to “take Eamon O’Cuiv aside and clarify his position on opposition to terrorism”.
Fianna Fail – which brands itself as simply ‘The Republican Party’ – had hit out over comments by Gerry Adams last year, in which the Sinn Fein leader placed some of the blame for the 1989 murders of Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan on to the officers themselves, saying they had shown a “laissez-faire” attitude to their own safety.
DUP MEP Diane Dodds called on Mr Martin to take action over Mr O’Cuiv’s remarks too, “or he will stand guilty of gross hypocrisy”.
“The comments of Eamon O’Cuiv are quite disgraceful,” she said. “The terrorists who planned and carried out this cold-blooded crime are responsible for it, and no one else. David Black was murdered because there are those in Northern Ireland who believe that terrorism can be justified and it is shameful that Mr O’Cuiv appears to be giving that some credence.”