Arlene Foster says she finds it ‘depressing’ that any young person should find it ‘acceptable’ to shout ‘Up the Ra’, following an encounter in which a woman sang those words at her during an awards ceremony last weekend.
peaking to the GB News channel, which the former First Minister also has her own program on, she said: “I would like to take this young lady to a cemetery anywhere in Co Fermanagh, she would see the results of supporting the IRA, and she would see many headstones of young man who were murdered, trying to defend their country and working for the good of the whole community.”
Ms Foster had been attending the Local Women Magazine awards in Belfast on Saturday night when the incident occurred. It was also videoed by the young woman in question, in a clip that has since gone viral.
“I went to that award ceremony on Saturday night, and it was a really lovely occasion,” Ms Foster continued.
“There were a lot of young people there wanting to get selfies, young people who were there to celebrate the success of their businesses. And it was a really great night.
“Then this young lady came up as it seemed nothing out of the ordinary around that as she asked me, could she get a selfie? I said, ‘yes, of course’. She then proceeded to stand beside me. And you’ve seen what happened.
“It’s a horrible thing, I think, for those of us who have suffered as a result of the IRA. Thankfully, my father survived the murder attempt on his life in 1979, something I remember very well, because I was there at the time, I was eight years of age in our home, when my father came in with blood coming from his head.
“But as I say, he survived. And we’re always very thankful that he did. But then…when I was going to school, aged 16, I was aged 17, when I was blown up in a school bus simply because our bus driver was a part time member of the security forces.
“This lady comes up to me and shouts ‘ooh, ah, up the RA’ as if it’s some culturally cool thing to do. It’s not. And the worry for me, is that, first of all, it’s so disappointing that a young person should think that that’s acceptable in society.
“But secondly, it has become normalized because Republican leaders here in Northern Ireland said over the summer that there was no alternative to killing people during the Troubles, that they had to do it.
“So then young people in Northern Ireland think it’s normal and think that he IRA are some good guys, whereas in actual fact, they went around in the dead of night, sticking car bombs under people’s cars, and coming to people’s homes to murder them .”
Ms Foster continued: “The reality is this young woman, and indeed others, guilty of singing ‘ooh, ah, up the RA’ should visit some of the victim’s families. I used to have a young girl who worked for me, who was only 11 months old when her father was gunned down on his farm.
“People need to understand that the IRA were a vicious criminal organization that was seeking to eradicate support for the Union here in Northern Ireland.
“They have gone on a different path now and have decided to go into politics, but they still do not condemn what they did and that’s the fundamental issue.
“I have no difficulty condemning crime and terrorism…but they still don’t condemn murdering their neighbors in Northern Ireland.
“So it is depressing. It is sad. And I think what really needs to happen is to have some grown up leadership from the Republican movement.”
Ms Foster was referring to Michelle O’Neill’s comments referencing that there was no alternative to IRA violence during Northern Ireland’s troubled past..
The Sinn Féin vice-president, who is poised to become first minister if powersharing government at Stormont is restored, was widely condemned by leaders across the political spectrum after her interview with the BBC during summer.
Speaking about the past, she had said: “I don’t think any Irish person ever woke up one morning and thought that conflict was a good idea, but the war came to Ireland.
“I think at the time there was no alternative, but now, thankfully, we have an alternative to conflict and that’s the Good Friday Agreement, and that’s why it’s so precious to us all.”
Sinn Féin has been contacted for further comment.