Unionists must not be carried away by O’Dowd’s remarks

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A senior DUP figure has poured cold water on the notion that relations between his party and Sinn Fein may have reached a turning point.

Following a week of bitter and toxic politics between Northern Ireland’s two main parties, Sinn Fein MLA John O’Dowd surprised many by coming out to condemn the Kingsmills massacre.

The former Stormont minister said the 1976 murders of 10 Protestant workmen in South Armagh was a “sectarian” attack and the people who carried it out should be “shamed” by it.

In a move, seen by many as a step further than previous Sinn Fein comments about the attack, Mr O’Dowd said he as a republican was “ashamed” of the killings.

And while some commentators have expressed hope that Mr O’Dowd’s comments could signal a thaw in the relations between the DUP and Sinn Fein, Gregory Campbell warned unionists against “getting carried away”.

Although he welcomed Mr O’Dowd’s remarks, Mr Campbell urged people to “look at them in the context”.

Relations between the two parties have been at a low ebb following the actions of Sinn Fein MP Barry McElduff.

The West Tyrone MP caused outrage last Friday when he published a video of himself with a loaf of Kingsmills bread on the anniversary of the massacre.

When asked if Mr O’Dowd’s comments could signal fresh hope for any potential talks aimed at restoring devolution, Mr Campbell told the News Letter:“Many people will look at what John O’Dowd has said and think that this is a much better way to do business.

“But people should not get their hopes up that it signals any dramatic change on the part of Sinn Fein.

“They are very good at damage limitation and the actions of Barry McElduff have put them under substantial scrutiny. This may have been a way to deflect unwanted attention.

“Only time will tell and I will wait to see if they put actions to their words over the coming weeks.”

Echoing Mr Campbell’s views, TUV leader Jim Allister said unionists “should not be carried away with this immoral propaganda”.

He added: “As Sammy Wilson has said McElduff showed that Sinn Fein/IRA are unfit to be in Stormont much less in an executive.

“Unionists should unite in demanding that Northern Ireland move on from the failed system which requires Sinn Fein/IRA to be in government in order to have devolution.”

Mr O’Dowd’s condemnation of the Kingsmills atrocity came on BBC’s The View programme on Thursday night.

The Sinn Fein MLA said: “Those who carried it out did not advance the cause of Irish unity in any way.”

Mr O’Dowd said the families of Kingsmills, as well as many other families whose loved ones were killed in the Troubles, deserve justice.

He noted that he had a number of relatives murdered by loyalists the day before the Kingsmills shootings.

The IRA has never claimed responsibility for the attack and Sinn Fein has never accepted that the IRA was responsible. However the Historical Enquiries Team and PSNI have both independently blamed the IRA.

The UUP’s Danny Kennedy told the News Letter yesterday: “I welcome Mr O’Dowd’s comments. But because of the hurt caused to families I don’t think one statement, however well-intentioned, is going to cut it.”