A unionist politician has accused Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson of “spitting in the faces of victims” after she shouted ‘Tiocfaidh ar la’ during a republican demonstration.
The convicted IRA bomber used the platform at the National Hunger Strike Commemoration in Co Tyrone on Sunday to launch a scathing attack on Prime Minister Boris Johnson, telling the government that its “days in Ireland are numbered”.
Speaking to the thousands present in the crowd at the event in Strabane to remember those who died during the 1981 hunger strikes at the Maze, Mrs Anderson said republicans do not believe the government’s claim that it does not want a hard border on the island of Ireland post-Brexit.
“Why don’t we believe you?” she asked. “Because you’ve lied your way through every land and to every people you’ve occupied and oppressed.
“And you can lie all you want but we know the truth, and the truth is that your days in Ireland are numbered; as the prisoners, as the blanket men, as the protesting women, as the hunger strikers proclaimed in the face of all that pointless British brutality above which they rose with such dignity.”
She ended her speech with the IRA slogan ‘Tiocfaidh ar la’, which was greeted by thunderous applause from the assembled crowd, which included former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, current leader Mary Lou McDonald and deputy leader Michelle O’Neill.
Ulster Unionist Party MLA Doug Beattie branded Mrs Anderson’s remarks “absolutely disgraceful” and “incredibly inflammatory”.
He told the News Letter: “That type of language helps absolutely no one. She needs to understand that I am a Brit and also Irish. This is my home, I am here to stay and I am going nowhere.
“For her to shout ‘Tiocfaidh ar la’, no matter what she thought she meant, the reality is that is the words of the Provisional IRA, which butchered men, women and children.
“So for her to scream that out, she is spitting in the face of victims, and she must have known that.
“She had an opportunity to temper her language and reach out, and she decided to go the absolute opposite way.”
DUP MEP Diane Dodds said Sinn Fein behaviour stands in “stark contrast to the dignity of innocent victims who lost loved ones as a result of bombs and bullets”.
She added: “Republicans can’t erect posters demanding ‘respect’ and then spend their weekends disrespecting innocent victims who still grieve their murdered colleagues, friends and family.
“There was never an excuse for violence and the DUP will not allow the brave and professional actions of our security forces to be used as the vehicle for blatant revisionism by republicans.”
The News Letter has approached Sinn Fein for comment.