When Declan Kearney, Sinn Fein’s national chairperson, gave a frank radio interview yesterday morning, it suggested that the writing was on the wall for Barry McElduff.
Sinn Fein’s leadership had been emphatically silent on the issue of the MP’s controversial Kingsmill loaf video, but Mr Kearney’s condemnation hinted that there would be no way back for the beleaguered Mr McElduff.
Mr Kearney’s use of the words “inexcusable and indefensible” suggested that, as most right-minded people had assumed and expected, that Mr McElduff was going to be shown the door when he met the party leadership later that afternoon.
But we should have known better than to assume that Sinn Fein would take the morally right course of action and accept that one of their MPs had been deliberately insulting the victims of one of the IRA’s worst massacres.
Instead what we got was another insult to the Kingsmills families, if anything even worse than Mr McElduff’s disgraceful video.
In some respects it might have been better if Sinn Fein had dished out no ‘punishment’ to Mr McElduff.
Instead what we have got is Mr McElduff suspended from a job he doesn’t do (Sinn Fein doesn’t take its seats at Westminster) and, astonishingly, on full pay. In other words, go and enjoy a three-month winter holiday, re-charge your batteries, don’t make any more videos and we’ll see you again in the spring.
It doesn’t even amount to a slap on the wrist never mind actual disciplinary action.
If there is one positive to this disgraceful episode it is that Sinn Fein’s pledges on equality, respect and stamping out sectarianism have been exposed as complete folly.
The damage to the party’s reputation has been significant. Outside of Sinn Fein and the usual republican apologists on social media there has been little sympathy.
The mask has slipped, and how.