Mary Lou McDonald, President of Sinn Féin, has signaled that she may stop attending IRA commemorations if she is elected Taoiseach, according to some newspaper reports in Ireland.
McDonald was speaking in Dublin on Monday afternoon, June 12 when questioned by reporters over a controversy surrounding Sinn Féin's Belfast North MP John Finucane’s attendance over the weekend at an IRA commemoration in Co Armagh.
Sinn Féin leader McDonald said: “For me...if I had the privilege of leading government, I would be a Taoiseach for everybody and I would act in a way to foster respect, reconciliation and understanding and never in a partisan way to give offense to anyone.”
Pressed on whether she would attend events commemorating the Provisional IRA if she held that office, she replied, “If I were Taoiseach, there’s a set pattern of what the Taoiseach attends and does not attend.”
The Irish Times and the Irish Daily Mirror interpreted that as a signal that McDonald would not attend Provisional IRA commemoration events if she ever becomes taoiseach.
However, McDonald emphasized that other party leaders who held the office of Taoiseach had attended Easter Sunday events to commemorate the Easter Rising. She noted, “So you’ll find me at the GPO on those occasions.”
Her comments suggested she is softening her party’s hard republican stance in preparation for entering government in Dublin after the next election.
They also contrasted with what she said in the Sunday Independent less than four years ago. She said then that the IRA's campaign was “justified” and there was “every chance” she would have taken up arms during The Troubles.
Last weekend, Finucane was the main speaker at an event commemorating “South Armagh Volunteers.”
The Democratic Unionist Party's (DUP) new deputy leader Gavin Robinson, a Belfast East MP, accused Finucane of being “a hypocrite” for taking part.
Finucane defended his attendance and said there was “nothing to celebrate in conflict,” but commemoration was “a right which everyone is entitled to.”
Finucane’s father was famous human rights lawyer Pat Finucane who was brutally murdered in front of his family, including a young John, by loyalist paramilitaries in 1989.
*This column first appeared in the June 14 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.