Special Adviser row hits Cookstown as McGlone brands SF ‘hypocrites’

PATSY McGlone has branded Sinn Fein ‘hypocrites’ after the party criticised the SDLP for failing to voice disapproval of a proposal to remove ex-prisoners from Stormont.

Last week, Sinn Fein councillor Pearse McAleer launched a scathing attack on Mr McGlone and his party after it emerged SDLP MLA’s may back the proposed legislation. The Private Members Bill, put forward by the TUV leader Jim Allister, sets out to ban anyone who has served more than five years in jail from holding office as a Special Adviser (Spad) right up to a minister.

The drafting of the Bill is said to be at an advanced stage and it is expected Mr Allister will introduce it on the Assembly floor in early June.

Sinn Fein has already voiced its objection to the legislation, but the SDLP have yet to confirm whether it will vote for or against it - a move which has angered former political prisoner Pearse McAleer.

“Given the history of political conflict in these islands over many generations I am deeply disappointed in the moves by the SDLP to offer cover to Jim Allister in his moves to discriminate against former prisoners,” said the Cookstown councillor.

“The political process that has evolved over the past twenty years has been highly successful, and credit must go to the involvement of many ex-prisoners in that process. It is a testament to the courage and leadership shown by political prisoners down through the years.”

“Unfortunately the SDLP now appears to want to alienate many thousands of men and women within the Nationalist community who have been incarcerated for their actions,” said Councillor McAleer.

“Political discrimination of ex-prisoners must finally come to an end and we must all recognise the positive contribution that can be made to society by these men and women.”

Responding to Councillor McAleer’s comments, Mr McGlone hit back at what he called ‘Sinn Fein hypocrisy’ and said the only time his party will clarify its position on the Bill is when the legislation is finalised.

“We do not prejudge proposed legislation on the basis of who the proposer is. We will assess each bill on its own merits and vote accordingly,” said the SDLP Assembly Member.

“Let us be clear on the background to the proposed Bill that Sinn Fein objects to.

“There was wide-spread public outrage when it was revealed that Sinn Féin had appointed Mary McArdle as a special advisor to the Culture Minister.

“Ms McArdle had been convicted for her role in the murder of Mary Travers, a young Catholic school teacher, as she left Mass with her father and mother in 1984.”

“Having been released early under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement Ms McArdle remains the only person convicted in relation to that murder. Like the rest of her party, she refuses to assist any investigation into their past.”

“Mary Travers sister, Ann, has spoken eloquently of the hurt caused by Sinn Féin’s insensitivity over that appointment, and eventually, they shuffled Ms McArdle out of the public eye.”

“The claim that such murders were ‘political’ demonstrates, yet again, Sinn Féin’s failure to come to terms with the reality of its own past.”

Mr McGlone also took a swipe at Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who he also accused of demonstrating hypocrisy.

“They try to take a lead in moral outrage from his party’s senior representative at Stormont. But by criticising Cardinal Sean Brady’s omissions of the past, while denying the actions in his, Martin McGuinness merely exposed his own blatant hypocrisy.”

He added: “I recall being at school when one classmate had a father murdered, another their house shot up and members of the family injured, another had a father forced to drive a large proxy bomb. Others, manipulated by paramilitary godfathers, more than willing to risk and sacrifice everyone else’s children for a Provo Ireland – vivid memories of some of the many victims”.

“Our society will only be truly reconciled if the perpetrators of the past show genuine remorse for the damage they caused to all the people of these islands. We will not make progress towards a united people on a shared island by attempting to glorify a squalid and sectarian conflict.”

It was thought his Bill would fail because Sinn Fein would oppose it under cross-community safeguards in the Northern Ireland Act. Sinn Fein has 29 MLAs but needs 30 to raise a petition of concern to block discussion of the Bill.