19 June 2024

McDonald urges against ‘seizing on the hurt of the past’

19 June 2024

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald has urged against “seizing on the hurt of the past” in the General Election campaign.

She was speaking after her party’s Fermanagh South Tyrone candidate, and former Royal College of Nursing chief, Pat Cullen was challenged to condemn two atrocities during Northern Ireland’s troubled past during which nurses were killed.

In an exchange on BBC Radio Ulster, UUP Fermanagh South Tyrone candidate Diana Armstrong asked Ms Cullen to condemn both the IRA’s bombing of Enniskillen in 1987 and the dissidents’ Omagh bomb in 1998.

Let's not go back there. Let's move forward and bring prosperity and hope to the people

Ms Cullen responded saying: “Look I’ve said very clearly those were very dark days. As a community nurse I’ve held the hands of many people who lived through those periods.

“I’ve felt, I’ve heard and I’ve seen their trauma. I’ve seen what it does to them. Let’s not go back there. Let’s move forward and bring prosperity and hope to the people”.

DUP MLA Emma Little-Pengelly criticised Ms Cullen’s response as “appalling”.

“Disgraceful and disappointing,” she added in a post on the social media network X.

Asked about the exchange during Sinn Fein’s manifesto launch in west Belfast later on Wednesday, Ms McDonald said the party recognises the hurts of the past.

“Pat Cullen is running for election because Pat Cullen is a very, very good woman, she is a formidable woman who has a track record second to none for public service,” she said.

“All of us are working for the future, and that is not to discount the hurts of the past on all sides. We recognise that but we also know that together we need to make peace with each other and we need to find a pathway forward.

“I don’t believe in the course of an electoral campaign to seize on tragedies and hurts of the past to try and derail or challenge a candidate is the progressive way for us to get to that point of reconciliation.

“This is a very serious matter. The experience that people had, the hurt and the loss that people experienced is real, it’s real human suffering and as political activists we are keenly aware of that and we want to be part of the process of healing that and of moving forward.”

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