Belfast’s Sinn Fein deputy lord mayor has declined to condemn the IRA bombing of Manchester during the 1990s, whilst simultaneously opening a book of condolence to the victims of Monday’s bombing in the city.
Mary Ellen Campbell was the first to sign the book of condolence when it opened in Belfast City Hall at 11.30am on Tuesday.
The Sinn Fein councillor wrote: “On behalf of the citizens of Belfast, you have our thoughts and prayers. Those who lost loved ones and those who were injured. We stand with you.”
Hundreds of people were injured on June 15, 1996, when the IRA detonated a massive bomb in Corporation Street, just a few hundred yards away from the arena now stands.
The blast destroyed much of the city centre.
There were no fatalities.
The IRA had also bombed the city centre on December 4, 1992.
Those two blasts injured scores of people, but also did not kill anyone.
The News Letter asked the deputy lord mayor about the IRA’s history in Manchester, particularly the vast 1996 bombing.
She said: “Today’s about what happened last night.
“I mean, I understand where you’re coming from.
“But I don’t want to deflect away from what has happened last night, and giving people the opportunity to express condolences and grief for the people of Manchester.
“So really, today is about last night.”
As to whether she condemned the IRA’s previous bombing of the city centre, she said: “Today is about what happened last night. And seriously, I mean, I think it’s a bit wrong to be trying to deflect because people who’ve still [got] lost loved ones last night, they’re still trying to find their families.
“And to try and make a wee bit of political point-scoring on it is a bit wrong.
“See next week, if you want to have these conversations, that’s dead on. I think today is about allowing people to express their sympathy.”
Among those also present at the opening of the book of condolence was UVF-linked PUP leader Billy Hutchinson, who has been unrepentant about his role in terrorist murders (SEE HERE FOR DETAILS).
Lee Reynolds, DUP councillor for the Balmoral area of south Belfast, was among those signing the book.
Referring to the fact bombers have targeted the city a number of times, he told the News Letter afterwards: “It is somewhere that has suffered for many years from terrorism, and our hearts go out to the new victims of terrorism.”