Former Sinn Féin MP Barry McElduff believes he showed “high standards in public office” with his handling of the Kingsmill video controversy after he made a return to politics as a newly-elected councillor.
Almost exactly 16 months after he posted a video of himself balancing a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head in a supermarket on the anniversary of the 1976 massacre, Mr McElduff was elected as a councillor for Omagh town with 900 first preference votes.
Mr McElduff, who has always stressed that the video was not intended as a reference to the killing of 10 Protestant workmen at Kingsmill, Co Armagh on January 5, 1976, said he is now “re-emerging as an elected representative” having sought to show “as much dignity as I could” in the aftermath of the controversial video.
Asked about the Kingsmill video controversy, he told UTV Live: “I have said my piece. I did so with as much dignity as I could. I resigned as an MP. I apologised for the unintended — and I stress unintended — consequences and I took full responsibility for my own actions.”
He added: “In a way, I think that I showed high standards in public office and I’m back. I am re-emerging as an elected representative for the people of Omagh, the county town of Tyrone.”
Speaking to the Omagh-based Ulster Herald newspaper, Mr McElduff said he had been shown “empathy” by the people of the town.
“I have received a lot of empathy from the people of Omagh town over the past year,” he said. “The people have had their say.”
His party remain the dominant force in Fermanagh and Omagh despite the loss of two seats — taking their total from 17 after the last election to 15 this time around. Together with the SDLP’s loss of three seats — from eight to five — the two main nationalist parties no longer hold an outright majority on the council.
Interestingly, Fermanagh and Omagh also retains its status as the only council in Northern Ireland where the Ulster Unionist Party is stronger than its Democratic Unionist rivals.
All eight sitting UUP councillors retained their seats, while John McClaughry won back the seat his party had lost in Erne North when Raymond Farrell quit the UUP and sat as an independent unionist before joining the DUP.
The DUP claimed five seats — an unchanged total from its 2014 performance.
Stephen Donnelly’s success in Omagh means Alliance now hold one seat, while Cross Community Labour Alternative candidate Donal O’Cofaigh managed to claim a seat in Enniskillen.
The number of independents, meanwhile, has risen from just one in the 2014 election to four this time.