Michelle O'Neill's IRA comments were sickening, victim says

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Michelle O'Neill said she believed there had been no alternative to IRA violence during the Troubles

The brother of a man murdered by the IRA has described Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O'Neill's comments about the organisation as "sickening".

Ms O'Neill told BBC News NI's Red Lines podcast there had been no alternative to IRA violence during the Troubles.

Colin Worton said there had always been alternatives.

His brother Kenneth Worton was one of 10 Protestant workmen murdered by the IRA in 1976 near Kingsmills, County Armagh.

"It is really hard to listen to her, Michelle O'Neill, I am not surprised at what she said, but it is very sickening," Colin Worton told The Nolan Show on BBC Radio Ulster.

"There was always an alternative and the choice was always there - murder or not to murder, bomb or not to bomb, that choice was always there.

"We should not be rewarding people who took life, they call them people, they are more like animals.

"I find it very hard to believe at this stage that this woman and this party are going to be running this country in the future."

As Sinn Féin won the most seats in May's assembly election, Ms O'Neill is due to become first minister if power sharing is restored at Stormont.

Her father, Brendan Doris, was a Sinn Féin councillor and IRA member who served time in prison.

'Absolutely atrocious'

DUP MP Ian Paisley said Ms O'Neill's comments were "absolutely atrocious".

"Here we have someone who said that there was no alternative to firing bullets and planting bombs, destroying lives, mayhem and murder, and yet this person aspires to be the first minister of Northern Ireland and has a mandate to be so," he added.

"I think that it is absolutely shocking that ideologically this is where Michelle O'Neill actually is, that ideologically she is not in a place where she can say: 'Well actually that was wrong, that shouldn't have happened and we should have sought a democratic mandate from day one to get there'.

"I never believed there has ever been a situation that justified the firing of one bullet or the planting of one bomb or the murder of one person to get to a place where politically people are today.

"This current group of Sinn Féin politicians really need to have a good hard look at themselves and recognise that they are regressing from territory where Sinn Féin have actually progressed from 2007 to the present time".

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DUP MP Ian Paisley said Michelle O'Neill's comments were 'atrocious'

Alliance leader Naomi Long said Ms O'Neill was "wrong" to say there was no alternative to violence.

Ms Long said while those in leadership were entitled to their perspectives they were "not entitled to their own truth".

"Neither should they ignore the devastating legacy of violent conflict in our community or the impact their words of justification for past violence may have on people still engaged in such violence today," she said.

Ulster Unionist Party assembly member Mike Nesbitt said Ms O'Neill's comments were "a very comfortable way to try and defend the indefensible".

Mr Nesbitt said there was "a toxic legacy of hurt and we have to own it and Sinn Féin and the IRA have to own their responsibility."

Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister tweeted that Ms O'Neill's comments were "a timely reminder to the DUP of why they should not enthrone her as first minister".

"Words of condemnation are good but actions of condemnation are better," he added.

'My narrative is very different'

Green Party councillor Brian Smyth said there were alternatives to violence.

"To suggest otherwise poisons future generations and normalises violence," he said.

When asked about IRA violence on Red Lines, Ms O'Neill replied: "I think at the time there was no alternative."

"Now, thankfully, we have an alternative to conflict and that's the Good Friday Agreement.

"My whole adult life has been building the peace process.

"I wish the conditions were never here that actually led to conflict.

"The only way we're ever going to build a better future is actually to understand that it's OK to have a different take on the past.

"My narrative is a very different one to someone who's perhaps lost a loved one at the hands of republicans."

Red Lines host Mark Carruthers' counterpointed what Michelle O'Neill said about her views of the security services, suggesting that others would see things differently and that police and Army personnel were "protecting society from a terrorist threat".

He went on to ask whether she had ever questioned what he described as the "republican narrative" and "if some of the things done in the name of the IRA were actually justified".