Suspending The Truth, Not McElduff?


From top: Sinn Fein MP Barry McElduff in a video posted on Twitter on Friday night with an alleged reference to the IRA murders of 10 protestant workmen in 1976; Derek Mooney

Precisely how do you suspend an abstentionist MP?

Do you make them show up and take their seat in the House of Commons for three months as part of their punishment?

Eh, no… you don’t.

But, as we have learned since Sinn Féin “acted quickly” to deal with Barry McElduff’s tweet mocking the Kingsmill massacre, he will be on full pay while he is suspended from party activities for three months.

It is almost worthy of a Lewis Carroll story. “Acting quickly” means waiting two full days to gauge public reaction and decide what is sufficient to assuage any anger among the middle ground.

“Suspending” means no actual loss of definable privileges for the guilty party, just the appearance of a loss of some non-specified ones.

To be fair to Sinn Féin’s leader in Northern Ireland, Michelle O’Neill, she did concede that what McElduff had done in his online video was “inexcusable and indefensible”.

This is something that many of McElduff’s online defenders, both named and anonymous, were not prepared to accept or acknowledge at any point on Saturday or Sunday.

O’Neill also accepted “the seriousness of the issue” and – directly addressing the families of the Kingmill’s victims – told them that she “recognised the hurt this has caused and I wholeheartedly apologise for any distress.”

While her words give the impression of a leader who gets it, even if it had taken her a few days to get it, her inaction tells a very different story.

She had the opportunity to properly sanction McElduff and send out the message that the next generation of Sinn Féin leader was different from the last one – and she flunked it.

The deliberate irony in her statement is that McElduff’s non-punishing punishment bizarrely fits his offence. His online joke, at the expense of the victims of the provo atrocity at Kingsmill, was aimed at an internal audience. So was his punishment.

His joke was intended to go over the heads of those outside the provos. It was an in-joke. The problem is that he forgot that others would see it and might just wonder what the hell was funny about a guy walking around a convenience store late at night with a sliced pan on his head.

The in-joke, for his provo audience, was probably not intended to mock the victims as such, just to tell his own people that the victims of the provos terror are not to be accorded as high a place in any hierarchy of victims as their own dead.

It was type a dog whistle to the provos not to pay much heed to the next day’s anniversary commemoration of Kingsmill and not to take any of the media coverage of the provos callous slaying of 10 protestant workmen in 1976 seriously.

McElduff has carved out a role for himself over the years as a sort of in-house court jester. He is the one warming up the crowd at Sinn Féin gatherings with jokes at the expense of others. Every party has such a figure. But in other parties they, or those around them, know what is suitable for joking and what is not. It does not take them three days to cop on.

What Elduff got wrong was that he forgot that Sinn Féin’s public position is that all victims are equal and that all victims are due equal respect. He gave the game away.

He demonstrated with his buffoonery that Sinn Féin believes that its dead are superior to everyone else’s. It is an old tactic. Dehumanise the other side. See them as less than you. That way it is easier to inflict the terror. The “war” may be over, but the attitudes continue.

McElduff’s punishment is a bit better crafted than his in-joke. The three-month apparent suspension is primarily aimed at the external audience – at you and me. It is intended to convince us that Sinn Féin’s new leadership takes this matter seriously and that its words about respecting all equally have meaning.

But the internal audience is the more important one.

That older audience within Sinn Féin will know the three-month suspension is meaningless. All those who defended McElduff over the weekend will see that this is not even a slap over the wrist.

They will take this message the way it was intended. They will see that the “new” leadership is telling them, just as the old leadership always did, that what they are saying and doing is all ok. The message is clear, nothing at all has changed.

Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil-led government 2004 – 2010. His column appears here every Tuesday morning. Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney

Pic via Irish News

57 thoughts on “Suspending The Truth, Not McElduff?

  1. dav

    The man should resign but in the one up-manship of the politics in the north it would be seen in the context of the DUP scoring a win, rather than an SF member doing the right thing to atone for his act of hatred

    1. brownbull

      so what you are saying dav is that it doesn’t matter what SF do cos of them other ones? classic Shinner whataboutery

  2. Andrew

    This is the first piece from Derek that I actually agree with.
    I really, really, hate what this troglodyte was at and it’s part of a nudge and wink dehumanising of terror .It IS dog whistle stuff and appeals to people with a mind-set that is never far from the surface in Irish life.
    Well said/written Derek.

    1. ahjayzis

      They could be such contenders, SF. But they throw it all away. Mary Lou comes across as so normal, so peace-time, so Dublin, a regular person in interviews, but her Facebook page is her attending one militaristic commemoration after another, her profile picture is still Martin McGuinness a year on. They’re not politicians, they’re priests and priestesses of a cult.

      1. realPolithicks

        “They’re not politicians, they’re priests and priestesses of a cult.”

        A cult of what?

        1. ahjayzis

          Oh um, I think it’s the cult of unionism or something – tink der d 1s hu wana stay wit britin hun xox

        2. italia'90

          A cult of Partition. A cult of British rule. A cult of Unionism. A cult of Murder. A cult of Shame.
          They have endorsed all of the above.

  3. Jake38

    Just think of all the Nornies who vote regularly for this clown and his ilk. There is very little hope for the place.

    1. Iwerzon

      Fup u Jake. It was free staters who caused the whole ‘place’ when they signed it away out of convenience.

  4. Tom Tum

    the scummiest thing about this is the way SF say ‘victims of Kingsmill’. what does that mean? victims of a town? no, you mean ‘victims of the Kingsmill massacre’ but you are too craven to even say the word

  5. RuilleBuille

    And how exactly FF deal with Haughey, Lawlor, Burke, Ahern? They defended them to the hilt. And the current leader trousered IR£5,000 from a property developer and it was lodged in his wife’s bank account. But that’s alright as long as it is not SF.

    If you were to believe the establishment parties and the mass media it was only the IRA who killed. And to ignore what went on in the days leading up to this horrible event is just as manipulative.

      1. RuilleBuille

        Mooney is a FFer and a political opponent of SF. You would think Mooney had written an academic treatise with peer review rather than a political polemic.

        1. Rob_G

          Can you point out anything inaccurate in what he wrote, or are you merely playing the man instead of the ball?

    1. Tom Tum

      well when you put it like that. now it seems obvious that political donations are equally as bad as cold-blooded murder. thanks for setting us straight!

      1. CoderNerd

        Bill Kenneally. Derek’s a-ok with his parties behaviour there? How about phone calls made to gardai saying certain people were not to be regarded as suspects concerning Mary Boyle? Or the church getting a limit to the compensation they’d have to pay to the children raped in their care?

        1. Vote Rep #1

          Hey people, stop talking about this SF debacle, just look at FF over there! What about them and this thing which has nothing to do with what is being discussed?!

          1. CoderNerd

            Hey people, point the finger at each and every one of them! But if you’re pointing a finger at one party while turning a blind eye to a party who provided you with a paycheck then your opinion is skewed.

            At least the loaf idiot above was punished for his behaviour. Plenty in Derek’s party have done far worse and nothing was done. Nothing was done for the victims either.

            Hold everyone from every party to account and we might see some decency in political circles and Irish life in general.

          2. Rob_G

            Plenty in Derek’s party have done far worse and nothing was done. Nothing was done for the victims either.”

            – no they haven’t. Your equivocation between political corruption and acts like forced suicide bombings and burning people alive in restaurants are stupid and offensive.

          3. CoderNerd


            Nonsense. You are 100% wrong.
            I referred to the guy above putting a loaf of bread on his head and sharing on social media.
            This outrages Derek so much that he has to put pen to paper.
            Party people Covering for paedophiles and rapists by interfering in garda investigations, not mere corruption, leaves that in the ha’penny place, but not a word from Derek about that.

            I did not equate anything to “forced suicide bombings and burning people alive in restaurants”. That would be utterly idiotic.

            Take a deep breath and read things properly before commenting in your rush to be offended.

    2. Bernie

      Well said RuilleBulle. Such a blinkered and biased group of morons. It was all fine and dandy once it was Catholics being targeted, maimed and murdered, wasn’t it? The bang of Stockholm Syndrome from yous is suffocating. Do some research before you blindly post your bland, knowledgeleless comments just to make a noise.

      1. Holden MaGroin

        Are you saying what he did was OK because Catholics were killed too?

        Seems like more of the same tit for tat attitude that sustained the troubles for so long.

      2. Rob_G

        Because the British Army and loyalists also killed innocent people, we can’t get offended by a man who seems to be taking the pee out of an incident were 10 working men were murdered in cold blood in a ditch on account of their religion?

        If Sammy Wilson made some light-hearted social media posts about the Shankill Butchers, I imagine people would be similarly offended.

        1. Bernie

          Andrew, hope you’re tuned into ‘Survivors’ on BBC ONE NI. Keep informing yourself, absolutely no need for ignorance of your magnitude, with all the information that’s available. You’re a disgrace.

    3. ahjayzis


      Fianna Fail dealt with robbing corrupt politicians badly. Because they’re a corrupt, sleveen party of liars, crooks, incompetents, parish pumpers and generally dim people.

      Doesn’t change the fact Sinn Fein treat murderers and child killers as actual heroes. That one of their TD’s personally collected a garda killer from prison. That if a DUP MP had done something similar about a massacre of nationalists, suspending that MP from a job he already doesn’t do wouldn’t wash with Sinn Fein.

      1. RuilleBuille

        The DUP have set up three unionists paramilitary groups during their existence – the Ulster Protestant Volunteers (1969), Third Force (1981) and Ulster Resistance (1986). You don’t appear to know this.

        1. ahjayzis

          K thx babes. I’ll repeat;

          Doesn’t change the fact Sinn Fein treat murderers and child killers as actual heroes. That one of their TD’s personally collected a garda killer from prison. That if a DUP MP had done something similar about a massacre of nationalists, suspending that MP from a job he already doesn’t do wouldn’t wash with Sinn Fein.

  6. newsjustin

    In the history of stupid things, this has to be the stupidest, most pathetic thing ever stupided.

    It’s a scumbag thing, for sure. But, the thing is, even if you were inclined to be a fan of his and his support for people who murdered people at Kingsmill, it is still a stupid thing to do….putting a loaf of bread on your head.

    What a truly sad boo boo.

    1. Cool_Hand_Lucan

      I still don’t get it. Derek called it a dog whistle for SFers but is there an actual joke with what he did or was he just referencing the Kingsmill massacre before the anniversary and making light of it?

      Reprehensible thing to do either way.

  7. Chris

    As an elected official, no matter your background or party affiliation, if you find yourself walking smugly around a supermarket with a sliced pan on your head while filming the whole affair, you have most likely strayed far from your brief and remit, reconsider would be my best advice.

  8. Cloud

    Northern Ireland politics, where one day they control the future of the EU and UK, and the next, get in a row over a man with a loaf of bread on his head.

    1. Chris

      Also not forgetting it’s the only place where being a no show to parliament (both Stormont and Westminster) gets you re-elected again and again. Such fun.

  9. Frilly Qeane

    Cheezus FFooney
    You’re as predicable as a Late Late line up
    And that includes your no show on last week
    Typical old school Pee Flynn smuggery and rudeness

    What would you have come up with if McElduff wasn’t caught doing a bitta Tiocidh for his equally thick followers
    Whatever it would have been I betcha May Lou and Michelle would have been tagged exactly as you’ve done here
    Again btw

    You’re a tragic man whose desperation is sweating off ya in bullets

    Nobody is fooled
    Especially not the electorate
    By your anti Shinner everything
    As an aside, that’s not your party’s directive btw

  10. ahjayzis

    Complain about bullying by other party members? Out on your ear.

    Joke about a massacre of the enemy non-humans? Slap on the wrist. He’s been suspended on full pay from representing the party in the parliament he is sworn never to set foot in any way.

    1. Frilly Qeane

      G’wan da’ Paddy

      ( Just made a show a meself and me snort here in the parent-teacher meeting pews)

  11. qwerty123

    Not at all, it was a stroke of genius to appeal to the type of nacker who votes SF and finds this funny.

  12. Mike Ribble

    What a FF hack job. The odds of it being an inadvertent blunder are slim.

    However, the odds of McElduff deliberate making a video to laugh at the murder of civilians (despite never being known to behave like that) are far, far, more slim. Why would he behave utterly out of character in the most public way possible which was guaranteed to hand a massive weapon to the DUP & damage himself & his party. “He knew rightly what he was doing”. Really?!?
    Who cares, though, a chance to attack Mad Nordies, eh? We abandon our citizens there to pay for our freedom, we dump all the toxins of our history into that ghetto so we don’t have to deal with them & then we call them mad. Nice. And if you think we’re somehow just better, go read about old men in FF in the 1960s laughing about murdering civilians when they were young. The hypocrisy in this state stinks. It was built into the foundations.

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