DUP leader Arlene Foster has accused Sinn Fein of trying ot “distort the truth” after the party claimed that the British government was the “main conflict protagonist” during the Troubles.
The reference is contained within Sinn Fein’s response to the consultation on legacy issues launched by the Northern Ireland Office.
Its Northern Ireland leader Michelle O’Neill and former Old Baily bomber Gerry Kelly launched Sinn Fein’s response on Thursday in Belfast.
However, Mrs Foster pointed out that during the Troubles there were over 3,500 deaths, of which 60% were at the hands of republican paramilitaries, mainly the Provisional IRA.
She said: “A member of the security forces in Northern Ireland was three times more likely to be killed than a member of the IRA.
“There were over 16,000 bombings and attempted bombings during the Troubles. There were over 2,000 incendiary devices used. None of those were planted by the British government. It was the Provisional IRA which first sought to devastate the economy by laying waste to our town and city centres.
“The British government were not responsible for a single punishment attack during the Troubles. It was the Provisional IRA which maimed over 1,800 of our citizens in punishment shootings with another 1,100 at the receiving end of a PIRA baseball bat.”
Mrs Foster accused Sinn Fein, in its submission, of continuing its attempt to “rewrite the history” of the Troubles.
“This is not about ‘different narratives of the past’. It is the continuation of attempts to rewrite history. It is not opinions which Sinn Fein seek to change, but hard facts.
“Such claims will always be challenged by the Democratic Unionist Party. The use of the ‘big lie’ by Sinn Fein cannot be allowed to distort the truth. Nor should the regular repetition of such claims allow the reaction to be one of acceptance or even dismissal because we expect nothing better of Sinn Fein than to continue its defence of a campaign to bomb, shoot, main and torture people into a united Ireland.
“Only Sinn Fein could put together a response to a consultation on dealing with the past in Northern Ireland and take umbrage at being questioned in relation to the IRA’s role.
“We all should be focused on the future, but it will not heal the wounds of any victim in Northern Ireland nor will it help us move forward if republicans cannot even accept the role they played but wish to shift the blame for all their actions onto the government of the United Kingdom.”