Will “healing the hurt of the past” mean no more support for dissident terrorists?

24 January 2017

DUP MLA Nelson McCausland has welcomed comments from Michelle O’Neill that she would try to “heal the hurt of the past” but questioned whether this meant she had moved away from previous statements, including support for the release of dissident terrorists.

Mr McCausland said, “In her first, pre-packaged Sinn Fein video Michelle O’Neill chose to focus on members of the IRA including those at Clonoe and Loughgall who were engaged in terrorist activities against members of the security forces.

Her first day appeared to be about speaking to the republican base and reinforcing her ‘credentials’. Today there appears to be a somewhat softer tone adopted, which is of course welcome, but many will ask what such words actually mean.

This week we are all conscious of the threat posed by violent dissident republicans after they attempted to take the life of a police officer. Michelle O’Neill has been vocal in her support to call for the release of dissident terrorist prisoners. During the last Assembly term on another Sinn Fein video she makes a number of comments including:

“Sinn Fein has consistently called for the immediate release of Marian Price, Gerry McGeough and Martin Corey.”

The question will be asked whether the new softer approach from Michelle O’Neill still includes support for dissident terrorists, or whether there will now be some consideration for their victims.

Michelle O’Neill is obviously very keen to present herself as a fresh approach within Sinn Fein, but she may wish to say whether the old rhetoric has changed. Does she still believe that:

“The British Government obviously have a massive role to play and they could start by butting out of our country.”

Sinn Fein are well practised in presenting a list of wrongs by others whilst completely ignoring their own actions, rhetoric and tone. Michelle O’Neill’s tone today is very different from that delivered to a hunger strike commemoration in Dungiven, but people will have a right to ask whether she is now distancing herself from those comments.”

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