A relative of one of the Troubles’ most well-known IRA victims has said Sinn Fein’s recent condemnation of loyalist paramilitary flags is an illustration of the party’s “typical double standards”.
Seamus McKendry was reacting to the fact that Sinn Fein had called for the removal of UDA flags from part of Glengormley, a largely mixed area of Newtownabbey, lying just to the north of Belfast.
Mr McKendry, son-in-law of Jean McConville, had last spoken to the News Letter in April when he condemned the proliferation of IRA ‘D Company 2nd Battalion’ flags around the Divis area of west Belfast.
This was the same area where Mrs McConville, one of the Disappeared, had been abducted 45 years earlier by the “battalion” in question.
The IRA flags bore logos identical to those found on merchandise which was sold on Sinn Fein’s online shop, and the News Letter twice asked Sinn Fein if it was behind the erection of the flags.
It did not offer any response.
Then last Friday, Sinn Fein issued a statement in the name of bomber-turned-MLA Gerry Kelly, stating that the recent flying of UDA flags in Glengormley was “clearly an attempt by unionist paramilitaries to intimidate the local community, but it will not succeed”.
He had added: “I would call on community representatives and other political parties to call for the removal of the flags.
“This attempted intimidation will not work but does raise tensions in the area as we approach the marching season.”
Contrasting this demand for the removal of loyalist flags with the party’s silence over the IRA flags, Mr McKendry, 59 and from Co Down, said: “It’s typical double standards from them.”
He added: “I think they should all be taken down to be perfectly honest – everything inflammatory.
“They’re antagonistic. There’s no need for them, from any quarter.”
Regarding Mr Kelly’s statement he said: “It’s sad. It makes me cringe actually, you know?
“They never seem to grow up. Maturity is beyond them. Some of us evolve, some don’t.
“They say conflict resolution takes quite a bit of time. But I think it’s going to take a lot longer than what most of us envisaged.”
He suggested politics in Northern Ireland needs to become more about “bread and butter issues”, rather than such things as flags.