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Northern Ireland

Explanation demanded from Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald over 'England get out of Ireland' banner

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Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald has been widely criticised for the picture. Credit: Sinn Fein
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Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald has been heavily criticised after marching in New York ahead of St Patrick's Day with a banner saying "England get out of Ireland".

The picture was taken during a parade in New York city. Sinn Fein posted the image, tagging in the Dublin TD, saying "No explanation needed".

However, many politicians have taken to social media to demand an explanation from Sinn Fein, with many unionist representatives saying the banner was "anti-British".

A Sinn Fein spokesman said: “The most divisive and offensive act on this island for almost the last 100 years has been the partition of Ireland.

“It should come as no surprise that Sinn Féin wants a new United Ireland under the provisions of Good Friday Agreement.

The faux outrage of some of our political opponents owes more to the silly season of a holiday weekend and petty political point scoring.

Sinn Fein spokesman

“However if Simon Coveney and the government is serious about achieving a new and agreed United Ireland then he should immediately convene an all-Ireland forum on Irish unity.”

Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney accused Ms McDonald of poor leadership and of being an embarrassment over her actions.

He tweeted: “@MaryLouMcDonald this is NOT leadership - it’s offensive, divisive and an embarrassment - grow up, this is NOT #Ireland in 2019! we are better than this!”

DUP MP Gregory Campbell said the slogan "sums up" Sinn Fein's attitude to explanations, truth and respect.

He said: "When slogans such as 'Brits out' or 'England out of Ireland' are used the unionist community are well within their rights to see themselves as the intended focus.

"The ‘British presence in Ireland’ is the unionist population in Northern Ireland. The Republican focus on 'Brits' in the city of Londonderry saw thousands of unionists move out en mass from the Cityside as the IRA began their ‘war’.

It's clear that republicans don't do explanations. Neither do they do apologies.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell

"They’ve never explained let alone apologised for the terror their armed wing conducted for so long. "

UUP leader Robin Swann MLA said: “Once again Mary Lou McDonald as President of Sinn Fein, has shown them up for what they are really all about, as she posed behind a banner which was highly offensive and wrong on so many levels. It demonstrated that bigotry and hypocrisy were alive and well within their version of republicanism.

“It is clear that when Sinn Fein talk about respect, honesty and integrity, that they are as sincere as Gerry Adams using equality as a Trojan Horse to attack unionists. Their words about rights are only a veneer to hide their true intention.

Personally I don't believe they mean a single word when they talk about rights for unionists.

Robin Swan MLA, UUP leader

"Their unionist engagement has fallen flat on its face because they just can’t help themselves.

“Mary Lou McDonald and her cohorts in Sinn Fein should be clear that neither I nor anyone like me will be leaving Northern Ireland despite the mealy mouthed words from Sinn Fein."

Alliance councillor Nuala McAllister said the Sinn Fein leader had shown "incredibly poor judgement".

The former Lord Mayor of Belfast added: "This sort of banner has no place at any parade in 2019. Mary Lou McDonald showed incredibly poor judgement to pose behind it and she should apologise.

"Leaving aside the irony of St Patrick being a Briton, this sort of anti-English, anti-British sentiment is just as repulsive as anti-Irish, anti-immigrant prejudiced views - they are two sides of the same coin."

Former Victims' Commissioner Patricia MacBride told the BBC NI's Sunday Politics programme that she understood the sign gained prominence in New York in the early 1980s.

"I think it came to the fore during the daily protests outside the British Consulate in New York City during the hunger strikes in 1981," she said.

"I think the sign was very much of its time and needs to be consigned to history at this point in time and moving forward."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald has been widely criticised for the picture. Credit: Sinn Fein