DUP MP Gregory Campbell has said he is not optimistic Sinn Fein will undergo any great change in its attitude to IRA violence when Mary Lou McDonald takes over from Gerry Adams as party leader.
The East Londonderry MP said that for figures such as Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou McDonald who were not IRA members, it is “their attitude towards violence when it was carried out, rather than their activity in it” which is important.
Mr Campbell said: “Some people have tried to make an issue out of the fact that it is a female leader and another distancing of a generation of Sinn Fein spokespersons who weren’t in the IRA.
“But more and more now people will be looking to see, whatever about the personal background of the individual, what their attitude is and what their approach is to issues such as commemorations of IRA terror.
“As more time goes by, there will be fewer people who would have been involved (in IRA violence), simply because of the passage of time. It is a case now of their attitude towards violence when it was carried out, rather than their activity in it.”
Referring to Michelle O’Neill’s participation in a commemoration for IRA members killed by the SAS in 1987 as they tried to attack a police station in Loughgall, Co Armagh, Mr Campbell added: “Is she going to be like Michelle O’Neill who also wasn’t of a generation to be involved? Is she going to be like Michelle O’Neill and, rather than take account of the feelings of innocent victims of terrorism, actually applaud the actions of terrorists? One of the first actions that Michelle O’Neill took part in as Sinn Fein leader in Northern Ireland was a commemoration for Loughgall.
“We will wait and see what Mary Lou McDonald does when she becomes leader. If she keeps doing things the way the former leadership had, then things are unlikely to change. If they are prepared to look forward rather than look back, then we will wait and see.”
He added: “I wouldn’t be confident that will happen.”