Working with Sinn Fein '˜hardest thing in politics': Elliott

Working with Sinn Fein is probably the hardest thing in politics because some of them 'have a very serious past' '“ and events such as Michelle O'Neill's glorification of the Loughgall IRA terror gang doesn't make it any easier, Tom Elliott has said.

Sinn Fein Northern Ireland leader Michelle ONeill participated in and delivered a speech at the commemoration event in Tyrone on Sunday
Sinn Fein Northern Ireland leader Michelle ONeill participated in and delivered a speech at the commemoration event in Tyrone on Sunday

The UUP MP added his voice to a chorus of condemnation following Ms O’Neill’s participation in an IRA commemoration at the weekend.

Mr Elliott said working with the republican party has never been easy but the actions of their Northern Ireland leader in Sunday’s event makes it all the more difficult.

Ms O’Neill gave a speech at the event in Cappagh, Co Tyrone.

The eight IRA men were killed as they approached Loughgall RUC station with a bomb in a hijacked digger. A civilian was also killed in the ambush.

Mr Elliott’s comments echo those of DUP MP Gregory Campbell, who expressed a similar view in an interview with the News Letter.

Referring to Ms O’Neill’s participation in the Loughgall commemoration, Mr Campbell had said: “It is totally and utterly abhorrent to unionists and I’m sure to many nationalists as well, that somebody should be paying tribute to those who were trying to murder innocent policemen.”

He added: “The business of working with Sinn Fein – it doesn’t make it easy.”

Speaking to the News Letter, Mr Elliott said: “It has never been easy working with Sinn Fein.

“People need to realise that it is probably one of the most difficult aspects of politics working with people, some of whom have a very serious past. It is certainly not an easy task and events like this certainly don’t make it any easier.”

He explained: “Michelle O’Neill is glorifying those terrorists who left broken homes, children without fathers, women without husbands, mothers and fathers without sons or daughters.”

The Alliance Party’s deputy leader has also expressed concern about the risk of “glorifying” the actions of “paramilitary or terrorist organisations”.

In the first statement issued by Alliance on the Loughgall commemorations, Dr Stephen Farry said: “While we respect families, friends and communities will want to remember loved ones, regardless of the circumstances in which it happened, there is a risk of remembrance also glorifying their actions.” He added: “There was never any justification for any activities from paramilitary or terrorist organisations.”

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church has yet to distance itself from the event, which used land owned by the church as an assembly point. The News Letter has contacted the church on repeated occasions to ask whether it will condemn the commemoration but it has yet to respond.