Sinn Fein’s act of naming its Castlewellan constituency office after two IRA men illustrates why the party wins no trust with unionists in terms of delivering a shared future, a UUP councillor has said.
Newry Mourne and Down UUP councillor David Taylor was speaking about the sign on the office of South Down MP Chris Hazzard, which has prompted widespread hurt in the area.
Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald recently attended the reopening of the office, which saw a freshly updated sign above the entrance, reading: ‘McNulty-Magorrian Advice Centre’.
Peter McNulty was killed by his own bomb as he tried to blow up Castlewellan RUC station in 1972 and Paul Magorrian was shot by the security forces whilst he was on ‘active service’ in 1974.
Mr Taylor said: “Once again Sinn Fein’s narrow sectarian mind-set has been exposed through this appalling act. Incredibly, they continue to wonder why there is absolutely no trust within the unionist community as to their bona fides as a political party in terms of delivering a truly shared future for the people of Northern Ireland.”
He added: “The actions of various Sinn Fein representatives in recent months – including the mocking of victims of IRA atrocities and the sight of the Sinn Fein leadership paying homage to the very terrorists who carried out such horrific acts of violence – are intolerable. For any progress to be achieved in terms of bringing communities together in Northern Ireland, it is very obvious that the glorification of terrorism must desist immediately and Sinn Fein has a clear responsibility in this regard.”
But Mr Hazzard was yesterday defiant about the signage. Asked by William Crawley on BBC Talkback if it might be “psychologically impossible” for unionists to visit the office, Mr Hazzard appeared to sidestep the question.
“I have no doubt that the society that we live in, that there are some people in the south Down community who would have trouble engaging with me simply because I am a Sinn Fein representative,” he replied.
Under the Good Friday Agreement, he said, “we all have the right to remember those who were close to us ... and as we move out of that [conflict] we have those principles in our mind about a shared society moving forward”.
He added: “For decades the centre has been named in honour of two IRA volunteers who were killed in the local area, whose families in the local area are held in the highest regard.”
Unionists queried whether the sign contravenes Westminster or Assembly guidelines, if it is funded by either source.
Asked if such actions might contravene the MPs code of conduct on probity, integrity and due regard for constituents, the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards said it “cannot give advice on hypothetical circumstances”.
It added that the commissioner, former victims commissioner Kathryn Stone, considers each allegation based on individual facts – if a written complaint is lodged.
The commission added that funding for MPs’ offices is provided by the the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority; however, it is understood that this body has no responsibility for regulating MPs’ conduct.