An online image of a hooded gunman standing beside a Sinn Fein election poster in North Down was “posted in error,” a party spokesperson has said.
The picture of the paramilitary figure carrying an Armalite-type rifle – posing next to a poster of candidate Kieran Maxwell on a lamppost near Bangor seafront – appeared on the North Down Sinn Fein Facebook page on Wednesday.
On Friday a Sinn Fein spokesman said: “This image was posted in error. It was removed as soon as party members saw the post.”
The spokesperson added: “Sinn Féin has taken steps to tighten up the administration of this page.”
North Down DUP MLA Alex Easton said attempts by the party to “present a new face” looked hollow when “we still see the same old glorification of IRA violence”.
Mr Easton said: “Whether it is attending events to eulogise gunmen, or posting images of them on a Facebook page, the leadership of Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill seems to be held captive by the most backwoods element of republicanism.
“Sinn Fein have said the image was ‘posted in error’ but notably have not apologised for it appearing in the first place. This is symptomatic of their continual disregard for the victims of a terrorist campaign which they still defend and celebrate.”
Mr Easton added: “It took Mary Lou McDonald two weeks to apologise for the offensive ‘England get out of Ireland’ banner. Sinn Fein should not take as long to apologise for this post.”
Kieran Maxwell was the Sinn Fein candidate for North Down in the 2017 Assembly election, polling 591 first preference votes (1.6%).
At the time, North Down Sinn Fein posted a message on Twitter urging voters to back their candidate in support of “a new Ireland”.
The post said: “Kieran Maxwell, SF candidate for N Down refers to recent stormont events as dishevelled politics – time to reshape and rebuild a new Ireland.”