Dispute erupts over the IRA’s history as SF criticised for selling gunmen souvenirs

A former Sinn Fein PR chief has claimed that the republican party “negotiated the Good Friday Agreement” amid a row about the sale of IRA memorabilia.

Monday, 14th September 2020, 12:34 pm
Updated Monday, 14th September 2020, 1:45 pm
Just some of the Sinn Fein merchandise on sale

Seán MacBrádaigh (whose Twitter handle is @SMacB) was reacting to a statement of condemnation from Fine Gael, which attacked Sinn Fein for its ongoing promotion of republican merchandise on its bookshop.

The Dublin-based shop sells everything from Bobby Sands-branded clothing to starry-plough flags.

Fine Gael senator Mary Seery-Kearney was particularly aggrieved about a pin badge showing men in a truck with an Irish tricolour flying from the vehicle, and what looks like a Bren-style machine gun.

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The truck bears the words ‘Irish Republican Army’.

The News Letter has pointed out many times the fact that the shop sells material bearing the emblems of the Provisionals.

A statement from the senator said “the continuing sale of IRA memorabilia on the Sinn Féin online shop is a clear example of who and what are really behind the party”.

She dubbed the badge “an insult to the victims of the Troubles”.

She said: “Who controls Sinn Féin? Does Sinn Féin recognise there is only one army in this country – Óglaigh na hÉireann – the Irish Defence Forces?

“A truly united Ireland must be a place where all members of society feel welcome; from all backgrounds.

“As Sinn Féin clearly have not yet learned this, it begs the question as to what society they envisage for those who do not hail from a nationalist background.

“The establishment of a United Island Unit in the Department of the Taoiseach under this Government will allow these questions to be considered with the respect they deserve.

“We cannot rush into a border poll, nor can we allow Sinn Féin to drive the narrative on this issue. No one has a monopoly on wanting a United Ireland, let alone those who cannot detach themselves from violence.”

A number of people came to the defence of Sinn Fein on Twitter.

Among them was Mr MacBrádaigh, who is the former communications director of Sinn Fein and ex-editor of An Phoblacht.

Speaking of the lorry pin badge, he said in response to Ms Seery-Kearney: “It depicts the ambush in which Sean Sabhat [aka Sean South] and Fearghal O’Hanlon died.

“The Sean Sabhat of the popular ballad, sung by many members of the Irish soccer team over the years and by former manager, an Englishman – Jack Charlton.

No doubt it has been sung by members of your own party!

“Oh... And it’s not a ‘van’. It’s a lorry. As in # ‘A lorryload of Volunteers approached a border town’ #.”

He also went on to add: “Sinn Féin negotiated the GFA. The badge depicts an event from Irish history - 1957...

“50% +1% is the democratic mechanism for unity in The Good Friday Agreement. It can’t and won’t be changed.

“The GFA ended a 30-year war. Republicans compromised in 1998. Without the 50%+1 mechanism, there would have been no Agreement.

“Very dangerous to talk about changing that!!”

Another defender of Sinn Fein was Joe Dwyer (@JoeEDwyer), who describes himself as “Sinn Fein London office”.

“The desperation of this,” he said.

“Can tell they’re rattled when they resort to non-stories like this. You’d think they’d have learnt.

“Shock horror, Sinn Féin Shop sells republican badges. Unlike others, Sinn Féin knows & *is proud* of the history of republican resistance & struggle.”

The News Letter is awaiting a statement directly from Sinn Fein.

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