When she was asked about Barry McElduff and the Kingsmill loaf affair, West Tyrone’s new Sinn Féin MP Orfhlaith Begley said that “there were lessons to be learned.” I call that a discreet answer. Barry McElduff has been the ghost at this political feast, but he has chosen to take a seat at the side and let his party continue to dominate politics in West Tyrone.
There are people who say the Kingsmill loaf matter revealed the true and sectarian Barry McElduff. That’s about as inaccurate a statement as could be made. McElduff never was sectarian. In fact he went out of his way to be on good terms with all political opponents, especially local unionist politicians. That none of them uttered a syllable in his defence when he was under political attack tells us the quality and quantity of reciprocation republicans can expect from unionist politicians. Except they’re mentally imbalanced, there can’t be a West Tyrone politician of any stripe who doesn’t know that Barry McElduff had no intention of offending anyone when he did the loaf-on-head routine. Yet when the time came to stand up and speak the truth about the Carrickmore man, they all melted away or joined the baying pack against him.
Had he chosen to, McElduff could have made yesterday’s election a political blood-bath. He knows that he intended no offence to the Kingsmill victims (hands up if you knew the date of the Kingsmill killings? Right.) With the conviction that he had the truth on his side, he could have contested the election as an independent and put the seat in jeopardy for Sinn Féin. But instead he has remained silent, putting feelings of personal disappointment aside in favour of supporting the Sinn Féin party.That can’t have been an easy thing to do, just as watching Orfhlaith Begley’s triumph must have filled him with mixed emotions.
There are not many politicians who will give up their personal advancement for the advancement of their party. Barry McElduff is one of that small number, and as he faces out into a world where he is now officially yesterday’s man, I salute his courage and selflessness. Maith thú, Barry.
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