UUP leader Robin Swann has described as “pathetic” an attempt by Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly to clarify his party’s claim that the UK was “the main protaganist” of the Troubles.
The controversy began on Wednesday when, quizzed by journalists, Mr Kelly strongly defended Sinn Fein’s submission to the government consultation on the past; it referred to the British Government as “the main conflict protagonist”.
However 24 hours later - and after widespread incredulity at his comments and his party’s stance - Mr Kelly clarified his remarks to the BBC, accepting that the IRA was “a main protagonist as well”.
He said it was “reasonable for me and for republicans to say that the British were the main protagonists”.
“But I am also accepting that political unionism, or British soldiers or whoever wants to say, that the IRA were a main protagonist,” he added.
“I have no difficulty with that, because the IRA were a main protagonist.”
However UUP leader Robin Swann has now slammed Mr Kelly’s attempts to clarify Sinn Fein’s submission to the consultation.
“Claims by Sinn Fein that the UK Government was ‘the main protagonist’ during the Troubles is not a ‘different narrative of the past’ - it is utter fantasy,” he said.
“It is perverse. And Gerry Kelly`s pathetic ‘clarification’ sums up the indefensible nature of Sinn Fein`s outlandish claims.
“That is why it is vital that they are challenged over the propaganda which Sinn Fein pump out on an almost weekly basis as they desperately seek to grasp for equivalence between the lawful forces of the state and IRA terrorists, where it simply doesn`t exist.
“What Gerry Kelly doesn’t say is the UK Government is the lawful authority within the United Kingdom. Their authority comes from being elected by the British people. They have a seat at the UN and on the Security Council. They are signatories to international treaties. Like every other democratic Nation, the United Kingdom has a standing army.
“When you consider the fate of the IRA’s victims who faced no court, no prison sentence with the prospect of release, and who were simply executed, it stands in stark contrast to the treatment of terrorists who were arrested, brought before courts, convicted, sentenced and ultimately released from prison, able to resume their lives.
“Sinn Fein should ask themselves how in thirty years, the Police and such a large Army were responsible for 10 per cent of Troubles related deaths yet the IRA for almost 60 per cent, with loyalists being responsible for the other 30 per cent.
“Mr Kelly’s claim that “it is not unreasonable that they were the main protagonists and certainly in terms of what was suffered within the nationalist population’ is a further re-writing of history.
“According to ’Lost Lives’ the IRA was responsible for the deaths of 402 Catholics. It was the IRA that caused misery within the very communities they claimed to defend.
“Sinn Féin’s Legacy consultation response said the British state has ‘always sought to conceal, deny and cover up its central role in the Irish conflict.’ I can think of no better description of Sinn Fein’s own actions for decades.
“Their comments are evidence of just how determined they are to impose their version of reality on others and re-write history. They are simply delusional.”