Mary Lou McDonald refuses to condemn IRA murder bid on Arlene Foster’s father

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald has declined the opportunity to condemn the IRA’s attempted murder of the late father of DUP leader Arlene Foster.

Thursday, 21st November 2019, 3:56 pm
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald (centre) at Stormont on Thursday

Mrs Foster had called on the republican party to condemn the attack on her father, John Kelly, at the family’s farm in Co Fermanagh in 1979. The policeman survived despite being shot in the head.

Ms McDonald was asked twice at a press conference at Stormont whether she would respond to Ms Foster’s request. She declined to specifically condemn it.

On the second occasion, she said: “Of course, in the course of the conflict very many people were hurt and I regret all of that. If I wrote the history books, it wouldn’t look like this.”

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She highlighted that Mrs Foster’s remarks came amid a debate about inflammatory loyalist posters targeting Sinn Fein election candidate John Finucane and urged the DUP not to engage in “whataboutery” in response to the banners.

Asked about Mrs Foster’s remarks today, Ms McDonald replied: “I understand those comments came up in relation to the awful banners that have been posted in respect of Claire Hanna (SDLP candidate in South Belfast) but more particularly in respect of John Finucane – banners that are menacing and that, to my mind, clearly articulate a threat to him.

“I think that’s deeply unacceptable. There are no such banners, nor should there be, directed at any unionist candidate or leader and I think in that context we have to remind ourselves that this election is about the future, it’s not about the past.

“I think Arlene Foster and all of her colleagues should be unequivocal and shouldn’t engage in any form of whataboutery in terms of these banners.”

She added: “I hope that the election proceeds in a way that demonstrates more civility and calm and political respect than we have seen heretofore in some quarters.”

Ms McDonald accused the DUP of trying to distract people from its role in Brexit.

“I would say, though, to the DUP that this election is about Brexit, I know they don’t like that, I know they would like us to talk about any other subject under the sun other than Brexit, but that’s what the talk on the doorsteps is, it’s about the future, it’s about how we proceed in the here and now,” she said.

Ms McDonald added the “most constructive thing” that the Stormont parties could do would be to restore power-sharing.

“That’s the ultimate expression of respect for everybody right across our society,” she said.