A visit by a convicted IRA bomber to an event in a loyalist east Belfast estate has been described as a “provocative and childish stunt”.
On Saturday afternoon Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson attended an arts event organised by artist Lise McGreevy in Tullycarnet Library to showcase Ulster-Scots and Irish heritages.
It came days after she gave an inflammatory speech at a republican demonstration.
After the Tullycarnet event Sinn Fein posted a video to its YouTube channel documenting Ms Anderson’s visit.
PUP councillor John Kyle felt it was “a deliberately provocative act”.
He commented: “She arrived with a camera crew in tow and entered a building in the heart of the loyalist community quoting Bobby Sands (in the video voiceover).
“Having a few days previously given a highly publicised speech at a republican event that was extremely disrespectful and offensive to unionists, she was going into a community which she knew would have been deeply offended by her speech.”
Mr Kyle suggested the MEP should have sounded out the proposed visit with community representatives given her recent comments.
He said: “Sinn Fein speak about equality, respect and reconciliation and yet at the same time these sorts of stunts are highly sectarian, highly provocative and show a complete lack of respect for the community to which she went. That hypocrisy needs to be called out.
“Both communities need to move beyond this sort of behaviour. It’s not just the republicans who are doing it. Both communities need to move beyond this deliberatively sectarian, provocative behaviour.
“This is childish behaviour, we need to move beyond this.”
In the Sinn Fein video shared on YouTube Ms Anderson said she was delighted to be in Tullycarnet.
She said: “I was thinking very much about what Bobby Sands had said that the men of art had lost their heart but when I looked at what Lise McGreevy has done with her exhibition ... I was delighted, very proud to be there representing Sinn Fein.”
She thanked Tullycarnet Library for its hospitality and recommended that anyone who has not seen Lise’s work to have a look: “She is certainly involved with peace and reconciliation and unlike the men of art who had no heart she has got a heart and she is bringing people together through music, song, dance and particularly through the fantastic artwork that she has on display.”
Eastside Arts said invites to the free event had been circulated by artist Lise McGreevy.
Also in attendance was deputy mayor of Belfast, Alliance’s Peter McReynolds.
In a statement EastSide Arts said: “EastSide Arts were not party to the attendee list and were not aware of who was attending the event. However, like all of our events, they are open to everyone, regardless of their political views. We are also aware that as the event was not widely publicised by EastSide Arts, local residents were unaware of the event and did not have the opportunity to attend. This was an oversight on our part for which we apologise.”
A Sinn Fein spokesperson said: “Martina Anderson was invited to an event as part of the Eastside Arts Festival promoting peace and reconciliation and was happy to attend and take part.
“Martina Anderson was democratically elected to the European Parliament to represent everyone in the north and regularly engages with people from all communities and backgrounds.”