Ian Acheson Ian Acheson

Why Sinn Fein can’t really apologise for the IRA’s atrocities

What are we to make of Sinn Fein’s latest experiment with the language of regret when it comes to the murder of Lord Mountbatten just after his nephew’s Royal funeral? It’s not hard to be cynical about the Shinners. This is after all the political party that appointed a convicted terrorist bomber as Director of ‘Unionist outreach’ not so long ago. A party that dragged its feet on pensions for victims of paramilitary terrorists in their attempt to include injured perpetrators. A party that police services on either side of the border says is run by shadowy figures in the army council of the IRA.

Their uncamouflaged leader, Mary Lou McDonald chopped up a word salad in an interview on Times radio this weekend and came up with a new side dish in obfuscation. Referring to the murder of Lord Mountbatten and three others in a group that included children (who were clearly visible to the bombers who blew them to pieces in Mullaghmore harbour in 1979) she said, ‘I can say of course I am sorry, of course, that happened.’ Much in the way you’d apologise for neglecting to feed a neighbour’s cat while they were away.

I suppose we should be thankful that the only thing republicans are trying to murder these days is the English language

Her remarks were prefaced by something about the Brits being just as bad which is standard issue context when there is even the slightest acknowledgement of the damage the IRA visited on its own people.

For all that, some commentators have fallen on McDonald’s grudging words as evidence of an exciting new phase in Sinn Fein’s strategy for respectability. Well, I have a bridge to sell you and it’s strewn with landmines. The whiff of cordite is still electoral kryptonite in both parts of Ireland and those in the party longing for political ascendancy in either jurisdiction know it.

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