An artist behind a controversial cartoon about the Kingsmills Massacre says that Sinn Fein “talk bunnies and meadows but celebrate Semtex and gore”.
Brian John Spencer created the graphic image of Gerry Adams saying ‘Equality’ at the scene of the murders, in response to Sinn Fein MP Barry McElduff.
The MP posted a video of himself with a Kingsmills loaf on his head on the anniversary of the murders. The IRA killed ten Protestant workmen at Kingsmills in south Armagh on 5 January 1976.
Mr Spencer posted his cartoon on social media on Wednesday where it was retweeted by DUP MLA Christopher Stalford and UUP MLA Doug Beattie. Both later removed it from their accounts. However Alliance Leader Naomi Long accused them of scoring political points.
“Some of our elected representatives appear to be engaged in a race to the bottom, in which we will all be losers,” she said.
Mr Spencer said his thoughts at all times were with the Kingsmills families.
“But right now we need to guard against distraction. The real issue at hand is not that cartoon but Barry McElduff MP and his party and their failure to take responsibility for his horrible actions,” he told the News Letter.
“The cartoon was made to highlight Sinn Fein hypocrisy and to sooth victims, not to offend the families or anyone else.”
No unionists had criticised it - only republicans, but that is because it depicts their past and present, he said.
“Claims of me being insensitive are disingenuous and their concern for the families is an illusion.”
The cartoon was indeed “obscene” he said, but so were the actions of Mr McElduff - the actions of republicans at Kingsmills being “beyond obscene”.
“The job of an artist is to observe events and point out hypocrisy and wrongdoing wherever it exists.
“For months we have heard about ‘red lines’ and respect and equality.
“For many it has been obscene to watch the republican aggressor claim victimhood.”
He added: “They talk bunnies and meadows, but celebrate Semtex and gore with T-shirts and ghoulish orations.”
“We’re nearly at the point where to oppose the republican movement is to be a bigot.”
“It is alarming how readily young people embrace the Sinn Fein view of the past - that violence, while regrettable, was justified, the men in balaclavas were simple and gentle activists. This is a deeply worrying trend. In the words of the late Maurice Hayes, nothing was achieved by violence that could not have been achieved by peaceful means.”
But Sinn Fein hit back.
“Mr Spencer said that ‘not one unionist has said a word about the piece’ and there in lies the problem, for Mr Spencer only unionist experience and opinion matters,” it said. “His justification is as ill informed and insulting as his cartoon was to the feelings of the families of the McGurks Bar Massacre and others who found the ‘cartoon’ ‘macabre, horrific and cheap political point scoring’.”
Colin Worton, whose brother Kenneth was killed at Kingsmills, told the News Letter he supported the cartoon.
“The intention was not to offend or embarrass families but to offend and embarrass Sinn Fein,” he said. “If it had come from Sinn Fein I would have objected.”
But Alan Black, who survived the massacre after being shot 18 times, took a different view.
“Really it is about time politicians go on with the real business of government rather than poking sticks in each other’s eyes - both sides.”
As for the cartoon itself, he said: “It should not have been in public.”
He “did not need all the hurt” caused by Mr McElduff, he said.
But Victims campaigner Willie Frazer said Mrs Long’s time “would have been better spent contacting the families” in his group, as she would then have realised that they fully backed the cartoon.