IS are not terrorists, says Sinn Fein MLA – but then says that they are

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Sinn Fein MLA Phil Flanagan has come under attack for suggesting that Britain and other western countries tries have “demonised” IS by describing its members as “terrorists”.

Islamist terror group IS claimed responsibility for 129 murders in Paris on November 13.

Victims of a shooting attack lie on the pavement outside La Belle Equipe restaurant in Paris Friday, November 13, 2015. (Anne Sophie Chaisemartin via AP)

Victims of a shooting attack lie on the pavement outside La Belle Equipe restaurant in Paris Friday, November 13, 2015. (Anne Sophie Chaisemartin via AP)

Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA Phil Flanagan of Sinn Fein said he was firmly against labelling the group as terrorists.

However, yesterday he said that the group had indeed engaged in terror and carried out atrocities.

Speaking to the Impartial Reporter, he had said he did not consider IS as “terrorists” and he believed bombing Syria, where IS has a significant base, “is not the answer”.

“I am not comfortable with the approach by the British establishment and other countries involved in invasion and colonial activities in the past in labelling organisations terrorists,” he said, adding that this term “demonised organisations”.

But TUV Comber councillor Stephen Cooper hit back that the comments “should leave no one in any doubt as to the undisguised evil of the Republican movement”.

He added: “129 people are dead as a result of terrorist attacks less than a week ago. Terrorist attacks of unparalleled slaughter in Europe. And what is the response of Sinn Fein/IRA? To question if ISIS is a terrorist organisation!”

He said: “Of course, on one level we shouldn’t be surprised that a party which takes directions from a still armed and active IRA would take such a view. It is nonetheless shocking that Flanagan is so brazen about the issue.”

The councillor went on to note that the IRA in South Fermanagh “engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Protestant and Unionist population”.

In response Mr Flanagan appeared to adopt a U-turn, unequivocally stating that ISIS is “engaged in terror”.

“Clearly ISIS is engaged in terror and responsible for countless atrocities in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and most recently in Paris along with being linked to groups who carried out the attacks in Mali,” he told the News Letter.

“Those targeted posed no threat to anyone but were targeted without cause, without justification or without mercy.”

Those behind the attacks in Paris are also perpetrating “horrendous violence and injustice against civilian populations” he said.

Mr Flanagan added on Twitter last night: “‘Clearly ISIS are engaged in terror & responsible for countless atrocities.’ For those chasing headlines let me be clear ISIS are terrorists.”