Mary Lou McDonald posing behind the ‘England Get Out of Ireland’ banner at the St Patrick’s Day parade in New York was “just another mixed message undermining Sinn Fein credibility”, former Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt has claimed.
The Strangford MLA was responding to a letter in yesterday’s News Letter in which the Sinn Fein president explained why she did not regret being photographed with the banner.
“The St Patrick’s Day banner is quite clear. It is about ending partition and the interference of a parliament in London in the affairs of the people who share this island,” Mrs McDonald said.
“The words on the banner are clear. They are unambiguous and should not be misrepresented. It is about England and its claim to any part of this island. It is an Irish republican analysis and aspiration shared by many at home and abroad.
“The banner does not say ‘English out of Ireland’. I would never stand behind any such banner and those sentiments have no place in our society, never mind a parade.”
Mrs McDonald stressed that she made it clear in a recent speech at Queen’s University that “a new and united Ireland, will and must, be a home for all whether you are British, Irish, both or neither”.
Responding to the Sinn Fein president’s letter, Mr Nesbitt criticised her attempt to justify her decision to “pose so unwisely behind the banner”.
“To say the words on that banner are clear is blinkered at best. To explain them as a call for the end to partition and the influence of Westminster in the affairs of this island is a clear breach of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement,” he said, stressing that the constitutional question can only be decided by the people.
“Mary Lou’s predecessor as Sinn Fein president was all about ‘Brits Out’. In her letter she writes of an apparent ambition to promote ‘Brits In’, given people like me consider ourselves ‘Brits’. Mix in Gerry Adams’ famous reference to equality as a Trojan horse, the myriad of human rights abuses by republicans over the decades and Mary Lou posing with that banner is just another mixed message undermining Sinn Fein credibility,” he added.