Barry McElduff resigns – “I do not wish to be a barrier to reconciliation and healing”

At ten o’clock this morning, Barry McElduff released a statement to announce that he is resigning as MP for West Tyrone.

“It is with great sadness that, after more than 30 years as an active Sinn Féin member and public representative I am tendering my resignation as MP for West Tyrone. The reason I am doing so is because of the consequences of the Twitter video which has caused such controversy over the last week.

“But the deep and unnecessary hurt this video caused the families of the victims of Kingsmill is my greatest regret. I again offer my profound apology to those families and to the wider victims community. Had I been conscious of the connection to the terrible atrocity at Kingsmill I would certainly not have posted that tweet. I genuinely did not make that connection, not for a second did I make that connection in my mind.

“Kingsmill was wrong, unjustifiable and sectarian. It should never have happened. There was no intended reference to Kingsmill in my tweet. But I do accept that there are many people who do not believe this to be the case. I accept also that this view of what happened is deeply damaging to the reconciliation process that is so important to consolidating the peace process and to healing the pain and hurt of the past.

“I cannot undo the pain caused but I know that my continuing role as MP for West Tyrone will compound that sense of hurt and impede any reconciliation process. I wish to wholeheartedly thank my family and friends for their steadfast personal support during this difficult time, and the people of West Tyrone whom I have had the privilege to serve as their public representative for over 20 years. I have a deep gra for my native county and its people.

“I am an Irish republican and believe whole heartedly in the reunification of our country and an agreed Ireland in which we heal the wounds of the past together. Reconciliation is essential, but that message is not being heard at this time. I do not wish to be a barrier to reconciliation and healing and in that spirit I again offer my sincere apologies to the survivors and families of those murdered at Kingsmill.”

He’ll have to submit a letter of resignation to the House of Commons Speaker, whereupon he will be appointed to as the Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds, a position which disqualifies the holder from serving as an MP. A by-election will be triggered at some point in the future whenever an MP (from another party in the case of Sinn Fein) makes a motion in the House of Commons to the Speaker to issue a warrant to the Clerk of the Crown in Chancery, who then issues the writ ordering that the election take place.

Moments later, party leader [in the North] Michelle O’Neill issued a statement:

“Yesterday evening, Barry McElduff informed me of his intention to resign as Sinn Féin MP for West Tyrone. Barry is doing so as a consequence of the unintended hurt caused to the Kingsmill victims and their loved ones by his recent social media tweet. Barry recognises that this controversy and his continuing role in public office is compounding the distress to the victims of Kingsmill, and again offers his profound apology to those families and to the wider victims community. He has said that he does not want to be a barrier to reconciliation and I respect that decision.

“Barry has served Sinn Féin and been a formidable champion for the people of West Tyrone at local government, Assembly and Westminster level over the past 20 years and has done so with great commitment, energy and determination. For this I want to personally thank Barry and his family, Paula, Niamh, Blannid and Patrick.

“Over the coming weeks Sinn Féin will focus our full efforts on the restoration of the power-sharing institutions on the basis of equality, integrity and respect and fulfil the mandate we received from the electorate in two successive elections last year.”

McElduff’s belated resignation could be seen as Sinn Fein removing an obvious and embarrassing hurdle that was standing in the way of political talks restarting. His career in front-line politics is likely to be over given his delay in resigning. While the West Tyrone seat is safe, unless a relatively unknown candidate is run by Sinn Fein, filling it will require the sacrifice of one of their Assembly team: Michaela Boyle, Declan McAleer or Catherine Kelly.

Alan Meban. Normally to be found blogging over at Alan in Belfast where you’ll find an irregular set of postings, weaving an intricate pattern around a diverse set of subjects. Comment on cinema, books, technology and the occasional rant about life. On Slugger, the posts will mainly be about political events and processes. Tweets as @alaninbelfast.