DUP MP Ian Paisley said comments by Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill, in which she argued there was no alternative to IRA violence during the riots, created a “new crisis” for Stormont.
North Antrim MP Mr Paisley said Sinn Féin is in for a “major rethink and overhaul” following the “absolutely brutal” comments of Ms O’Neill who said there was no alternative to IRA violence during the unrest.
Speaking to the BBC’s Stephen Nolan, Mr Paisley commented: “I think Michelle O’Neill’s comments are absolutely terrible” and added: “I think Sinn Féin should fix this.”
“Here we have someone who said there is no alternative to shooting bullets and planting bombs and destroying lives and causing chaos and killing,” he said.
“And yet this man aspires to be the first minister of Northern Ireland and has a mandate to do so.
“I think it’s absolutely shocking that ideologically this is where Michelle O’Neal really is, that ideologically she’s not in a place where she can say, ‘That was wrong, this shouldn’t have happened, and we should have been seeking a democratic mandate from day one.'”
Mr Paisley said he does not believe there has ever been a situation that would justify firing one bullet, planting one bomb or killing one person.
“That’s what happened, but from an ideological standpoint, I think this current group of Sinn Féin politicians really needs to take a good look at themselves and admit that they are regressing from the territory that Sinn Féin moved from in 2007.”
Ms O’Neill, Vice President of Sinn Féin and First Minister in Wait, made the comments during an interview for the BBC Red Lines podcast.
The daughter of a former IRA prisoner, she recalled that one of her earliest memories was the sound of army vehicles pulling up to her front door during a raid on the family home.
“I don’t think any Irish have ever woken up in the morning and thought conflict was a good idea, but war has come to Ireland,” she said.
“I think at that time there was no alternative, but now, fortunately, we have an alternative to conflict, and this is the Good Friday Agreement, and that is why it is so valuable to all of us.
“My whole adult life is built on the peace process. I wish there were never conditions here that actually led to conflict, I wish so many people didn’t have the terrible experience they had during the days of conflict.
“The only way to build a better future is to understand that it’s okay to treat the past differently.”
She added: “My narrative is very different from that of someone who may have lost a loved one at the hands of the Republicans.
“But we need to be mature enough to be able to say, ‘It’s okay, we’ll have to agree to disagree with this, but let’s make sure that the conditions we find ourselves in in this scenario never happen again.’ .
On Tuesday, the brother of the man killed in Kingsmill told the Belfast Telegraph that the comments were “disgusting”.
Colin Wharton’s brother Kenneth was one of 10 Protestant workers shot dead in the 1976 atrocity.
“There has always been an alternative to violence, it’s just that the IRA chose not to use it,” he said.
“The alternative to killing people is not to kill people, it’s that simple. No one on either side of the abyss had to choose a weapon or a bomb. Nobody was supposed to kill anyone.
“In Kingsmill, there was no case of shooting armed men in a fair fight. My brother and his friends were armed only with lunch boxes and flasks.”
He said the remarks showed Sinn Féin’s “narrow” mindset.”
“For 30 years the IRA has been tied to the bomb and the bullet and Sinn Féin is still trying to justify it. I don’t think they will ever change,” he said.
On Wednesday, TUV board member Stephen Cooper said: “Northern Ireland’s Sinn Féin leader’s assertion that there was ‘no alternative’ to IRA terrorism is a telling testament to the mindset of a man who claims to want to be first minister for all. “.
Victims campaign activist Kenny Donaldson also condemned the comments.
“Whatever grievances (imagined or real) people may have experienced in this society, they have never legitimized the killing of one neighbor by another,” he said.