Barry McElduff: Barrage of criticism never abated

By Mark Devenport
BBC News NI Political Editor

Image source, PAcemaker
Image caption,
Barry McElduff speaking to the media following his suspension from Sinn Féin

Barry McElduff has consistently protested that he never intended to cause offence with his Kingsmill loaf video, and that its publication on the 42nd anniversary of the Kingsmills atrocity was just a terrible coincidence.

With that in mind, his family and friends rallied to his defence and he must have initially hoped that his three-month suspension would buy enough time for emotions to cool.

However, the criticism never abated, with Sinn Féin's opponents accusing the party of not matching their initial tough words with appropriate action.

The adverse publicity triggered by the video peaked as the sole survivor of the massacre, Alan Black, described what had happened in chilling detail during an interview with the Republic of Ireland's state broadcaster, RTÉ, over the weekend.

Now Mr McElduff has resigned, citing the damage the fall out from his video has done to the reconciliation process.

Unionists describe the resignation as "long overdue".

Sinn Féin will hope that by the time a Westminster by-election is held, the Kingsmills controversy will have been put into a different perspective.

Image source, Twitter
Image caption,
Barry McElduff says Kingsmills was 'wrong, unjustifiable and sectarian'

Sinn Féin took nearly 51% of the vote in the 2017 election, increasing their vote by more than 7%.

Since Mr McElduff's resignation, the Ulster Unionists have suggested that what they call a "non-partisan candidate" should be found who would take their seat in the House of Commons and provide "a voice for victims".

This approach - if adopted - would mirror the Mid Ulster by-election of 2013 when a joint unionist candidate, Nigel Lutton, shaved 10,000 off Sinn Fein's majority.

However, as in Mid Ulster, Sinn Féin enjoy a commanding lead in West Tyrone.

Even if there is a response to the adverse publicity of the last few days, it is hard to imagine any other candidate posing a realistic challenge.