Category: Archive

McGuinness affirms party’s stance on Unionist ‘consent’

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

Martin McGuinness is standing by his leader. At a press conference in New York last week, the Sinn FTin chief negotiator and North Ireland education minister strongly endorsed the groundbreaking “consent” remarks Gerry Adams uttered at the World Economic Forum in the same city a few days earlier.

McGuinness also delivered what he himself believed was his first public verbal account of his role and rank in the Provisional IRA on Bloody Sunday.

Speaking Thursday morning at New York University’s Glucksman Ireland House, McGuinness said Adams’s statement, in which he acknowledged for the first time that Unionist consent would be necessary for a united Ireland, was linked firmly to the Good Friday agreement.

“I think Gerry Adams very knowledgeably articulated our position,” McGuinness said. “The Unionists and ourselves have signed up to what is undoubtedly a compromise on our parts.

“We think that it is vitally important that bridges to the Unionist community continue to be built by Irish Republicans. . . . I do believe that we will see a united Irish republic on the island of Ireland. I think what we now have to do is negotiate that, and negotiate that sensibly with representatives of the British government and the Unionist community in the North.”

Follow us on social media

Keep up to date with the latest news with The Irish Echo

With regard to his IRA role on Bloody Sunday, when 14 civil rights protesters were gunned down by members of the British paratroop regiment, McGuinness was equally unequivocal.

“On Jan. 30, 1972, I was 21 years of age . . . that part of Ireland where I come from was effectively at war with the British state, the British government and the British military,” McGuinness said. “Many young people of my age decided to join the resistance to all of that, and, of course, I was one of them.

“I have given my statement to the Bloody Sunday tribunal, I have met with their lawyers for extensive discussion and further information has been added to that statement as a supplement. In that statement I have made it quite clear that I was second in command or adjutant, whichever term people like to use, of the Derry Brigade on that day, the 30th of January, 1972.”

McGuinness said that it was “very important” to point out that it had taken 30 years for his name to be injected into the Bloody Sunday equation “and that was injected, in my opinion, from a highly dubious British military intelligence source.”

“Remember, he said, “no one is saying that I fired a shot at the British army on Bloody Sunday. What is being said to the tribunal, by a person who may or may not exist, is that I told him, or her, that I fired the first shot of Bloody Sunday. It is total and absolute rubbish. It is a fabrication. It is a lie. And what’s more, the people of Derry know it’s a lie. The people of Ireland know it’s a lie.”

Asked if his public admission might negatively affect his position as education minister, particularly in the context of his visiting predominantly Protestant schools, McGuinness said he did not envision any such difficulties.

“I have been minister for education for the past two years and have visited schools in every sector,” he said.

It was true, he said, that he received more invitations from Catholic schools, but because of the divisions in Unionism, the more “progressive elements” in that sector were also now coming to see him.

“It is understandable” he said, “that in the context of me making it clear who I was, and what I was, on that day [Bloody Sunday] that people would open this up outside the parameters of what happened on Bloody Sunday. But that poses a huge dilemma for more people than just myself.”

McGuinness declined to give any additional details of his activities in Derry on Bloody Sunday. He said that out of respect for the families who had lost loved ones, he would not do that until he appeared before the Saville Inquiry, perhaps, he said, in “early spring.”

On Bloody Sunday itself, McGuinness had plenty to say.

“Nobody has a monopoly on suffering and there have been many incidents where people have lost their lives down the years and none of those people, I think, should be forgotten,” he said. “But Bloody Sunday is different. And the reason it is different is that this was the British state and the British army firing on people, killing civil rights marchers that they claimed were their people. It’s different because the British then set out to tarnish and blacken the names of the people who were killed, and their families, by claiming throughout the world that they were gunmen and bombers.

“I think it would be a serious mistake, and I would oppose tooth and nail any attempt by anyone to blame Irish Republicans on their own for what happened in Ireland in the conflict in the early 1970s. The big question now is how far up the [British government] ladder did this go.”

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese