Gerry Kelly rejects call to repudiate IRA
Gerry Kelly rejects call to repudiate IRA

With elections to local councils and the Stormont Assembly due to take place within a week, Sinn Fein is coming under pressure from the unionist parties and the mainstream media to turn its back on the IRA.

An interview between Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly and the BBC disintegrated into a row after he was asked whether commemorations to his former comrades in the (Provisional) IRA sent “mixed messages” on “violence”.

Sinn Fein has increasingly denounced the actions of the Real IRA and other breakaway IRA groups.

Mr Kelly, a junior Minister in the Six County Executive, said the questions should be put instead to the Orange Order, British politicians and the British Army.

He told BBC political correspondent Martina Purdy her questions were “disingenuous” and “unfair”.

In the interview, Ms Purdy accused Mr Kelly of “turning on her” before she added: “But do you think it’s wise to continue with these kind of commemorations?”

Mr Kelly replied: “I am not turning on you... have you ever asked that question of the Orange Order?

“Have you ever asked the question of the British Army?

“It’s a simple question, have you ever done it? Have you ever asked the question of a British politician?

“Now we’re very clear, I am very proud of my history, I am very proud of it, I will always be proud of it, I will die a republican. And people in this area have suffered massively...”

Ms Purdy said: “I didn’t ask you that, I asked you should you rethink it.” Mr Kelly responded: “And you think that I should not come here and praise the people who stood against sectarianism?”

Sinn Fein’s political rivals have regularly claimed its condemnations of the breakaway IRA groups have been hypocritical. Following recent actions by the dissidents, unionists are increasingly demanding that the party now also condemn the actions of Provisional IRA.

The controversy has sparked life into the Assembly election campaign after officials were begin to voice concern over voter apathy.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said: “I think that Gerry Kelly and Sinn Fein need to recognise that this is an issue they have to address if they are to clearly differentiate themselves from the dissidents, particularly after the very provocative and dangerous display we had this week in Londonderry, then they need to be much more sensitive about this.”

Traditional Unionist Party leader Jim Allister said: “In spite of what Gerry Kelly says, and his attempts to bully journalists, terrorism is never justified and there is absolutely no difference between what the Provisional IRA did and what so-called dissidents are doing today.

A Sinn Fein spokesperson said: “Martina Purdy chose to take this opportunity to insult Ireland’s patriot dead as republicans across the island were commemorating the sacrifice that these men and women have made.

“Sinn Fein will always, strongly and robustly, defend this sacrifice against those who attempt to demean their memories, or the families and friends of Ireland’s patriot dead.”

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