Lord Empey: Sinn Fein claim that it negotiated Belfast Agreement absolute nonsense

One of the prime movers behind the Belfast Agreement has rubbished the notion that Sinn Fein negotiated the deal, amid a dispute about the republican movement’s history.

Tuesday, 15th September 2020, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 15th September 2020, 1:28 pm
Some of the Sinn Fein IRA memorabilia which sparked off the online dispute about republican history

The man who made the claim was Sean MacBradaigh, a former Sinn Fein communications chief and ex-editor of An Phoblacht.

Mr MacBradaigh posted the remarks on Twitter amid an online spat sparked by the fact Sinn Fein still sells IRA memorabilia from its Dublin-based bookshop – with items ranging from starry plough flags to hunger strike souvenirs and clothing.

A Fine Gael senator, Mary Seery-Kearney, hit out at one item in particular for sale – a pin badge showing an IRA truck filled with fighters, a machine gun, and the Irish tricolour.

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She dubbed the memorabilia an “insult” to Troubles victims and the loved ones who mourn them.

Amid the subsequent stir which this caused, a number of people came to Sinn Fein’s defence, including Mr MacBradaigh (Gerry Adams’ former spokesman who still works with Sinn Fein in ‘strategy and communications’).

He said that the pin badge did not depict Troubles-era Provisionals, but rather men from the Border Campaign era of the 1950s – and in particular the much-hailed republican militant Sean South.

In the course of defending Sinn Fein over the memorabilia, Mr MacBradaigh went on to write: “Sinn Fein negotiated the Good Friday Agreement. The badge depicts an event from Irish history – 1957. You need to cop yerself on!”

One of the main negotiators of the agreement was Sir Reg Empey, who headed up the UUP’s team dealing with Strand One of the 1998 treaty – the part of the deal which set up the devolved Stormont assembly.

When it came to his role in drawing up the text of Strand One, Lord Empey told the News Letter: “Sinn Fein did not participate in any way in the negotiations.

“They didn’t produce any papers, they didn’t respond to any papers anybody else produced.

“And it should be remembered that Sinn Fein never endorsed the agreement. So that is absolute nonsense ...

“I can assure you that throughout that particular negotiation, the reason they claimed they weren’t participating was because they didn’t wish to be part of an internal settlement.”

When it comes to the ongoing sale of Provisional memorabilia by Sinn Fein, Sir Reg said: “In this day and age, 24 years after the ceasefires, for that sort of thing to be floating around is deeply offensive to many of the victims.”

Mr MacBradaigh responded: “Sinn Féin along with other parties in the North, as well as the Irish and British Governments, negotiated the GFA.

“My point in the tweet is that Sinn Féin’s bona fides in relation to the Agreement are solid and should not be in question.”

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