Battle of the Somme: Victims ‘uneasy’ that Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill took part but still attends IRA commemorations

Michelle O’Neill’s claims to be working for reconciliation through her commemoration of the Battle of the Somme leaves victims ‘uneasy’ because she still attends IRA memorials, it is claimed.

Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United was speaking after the Sinn Fein Vice President laid a wreath at the Cenotaph in Belfast to mark the anniversary of the tragic Battle.

While Sinn Fein Lord Mayors of Belfast have done this before it is the first time a senior member of the party has done so.

Mr Donaldson said many Ulster and Irish volunteers died side by side at The Somme, with the communities across the island having a generation of youth “stolen away”.

Belfast Lord Mayor Tina Black (left) with Sinn Fein Vice-President Michelle O'Neill after laying a wreath at the Cenotaph in Donegall Square West in Belfast, marking the anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916

Many people across the political spectrum will welcome Ms O’Neill’s participation and be vocal about it, he said.

“But for the vast majority of those impacted by IRA terrorism there will be a different response. Many will feel uneasy that Sinn Fein’s northern leader will speak on one hand of reaching out and showing respect [through today’s development] yet will continue to be present at commemorative events which remember and eulogise Irish Republicans who murdered their fellow Protestant and Unionist neighbours, and anyone else who got in their way”.

“The Somme was an event which saw the mass loss of life of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter and the Provisional IRA murdered Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter. It is the latter where Michelle O’Neill and others within the leadership of Sinn Fein and its’ ranks have much further distance to travel.”