Waterford’s poll topping TD David Cullinane has defended saying ‘Up the Ra’ in a celebratory speech following his election.The Sinn Féin candidate secured 20,569 first preference votes in the Waterford constituency in Saturday’s election and was elected on the first count at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) on Sunday.
Footage has emerged online showing Deputy Cullinane addressing supporters at a celebration event held following his emphatic win. Addressing his supporters, and amid loud cheers, he said: “They didn’t break the hunger strikers, they didn’t break Bobby Sands and Kevin Lynch, they’ll never break us, they’ll never break Sinn Féin. Up the Republic, Up the Ra. Tiocfaidh ár Lá.”
The video subsequently went viral and was the subject of a discussion on ‘The Last Word’ with Matt Cooper on Today FM yesterday (Monday) when David Cullinane defended the speech.
“I have never distanced myself from the IRA, or from Bobby Sands and the people who died on hunger strike, or for those who, over 100 years, were involved in the armed struggle,” he said.
“That is no secret. I have no problem saying that.”He continued: “I’m never one who will distance myself from Sinn Féin’s past, or the IRA’s past. I don’t agree with everything the IRA did. Of course I don’t. Do I think Martin McGuinness was wrong to join the IRA? No I don’t… the bottom line is that the IRA is gone, it doesn’t mean we don’t celebrate or commemorate those volunteers.”
In relation to the hunger strikers, he added: “I’m not going to apologise for the depth of feeling I have for those people who made that sacrifice.”Meanwhile, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has said her party colleague has to explain why he finished the speech by saying ‘Up the Ra’.She was asked about the issue on RTÉ’s ‘Six One’ and added that she hadn’t seen or heard the video, and so couldn’t comment any further.