Northern Ireland

Norman Tebbit criticised over Martin McGuinness shooting jibe

Lord Tebbit
Image caption Lord Tebbit said "we can but hope" that dissident republicans would shoot Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness in the back for attending a state banquet hosted by the Queen

Sinn Féin has criticised a Conservative peer for saying that he hoped Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness would be shot in the back.

Lord Tebbit made the remarks after the Sinn Féin MLA attended a state banquet hosted by the Queen on Tuesday night.

The peer, who survived a 1984 IRA bomb that left his wife paralysed, said he hoped the former IRA man would be targeted by dissident republicans.

Sinn Féin accused him of advocating "the assassination" of Mr McGuinness.


The deputy first minister said the remarks raised "very serious questions" for the Tory peer.

"I absolutely sympathise with him and understand the trauma that he and his family have been through as a result of how the conflict affected them," Mr McGuinness told the BBC's Evening Extra programme.

"But I do have to say, I think many people will find it absolutely dismaying that someone who has lectured Irish republicans down the years is now effectively resorted to encouraging elements who are hostile to the peace process to take my life."

Lord Tebbit and his wife Margaret were badly injured in the Brighton bombing, when the IRA blew up The Grand Hotel during the 1984 Conservative Party conference.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said: "I fully understand that Norman Tebbit has himself been a victim of the political conflict and I regret that he has suffered grievously.

"However, to publicly advocate the assassination of Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness is a shocking throwback to a violent past from which we are seeking to move on."


The peer has been an outspoken critic of the IRA and made the remarks on radio, after Mr McGuinness toasted the Queen during a state banquet at Windsor Castle.

The Sinn Féin minister was a guest at the event held in honour of Irish President Michael D Higgins, who is on a four-day state visit to the UK.

Mr Tebbit said: "There's always the possibility that a member of the Real IRA will be so outraged by Mr McGuinness bowing to the Queen that they might shoot him in the back for it. We can but hope."

When contacted by the BBC on Wednesday afternoon, Mr Tebbit said he stood by his comments and added: "That's the way it is."

Image caption Martin McGuinness, a former IRA man, was a guest of the Queen at the state banquet at Windsor Castle

Mr McGuinness has previously received death threats from dissident republican paramilitaries over Sinn Féin's support for the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Mr Adams said his party colleague had taken considerable personal risks to ensure the success of the peace process and criticised the peer's remarks.


"Martin, his home and indeed his family have been targets for abuse and attack by so-called dissident republicans," the Sinn Féin leader said.

"To now have this type of activity encouraged by a member of the British House of Lords is unacceptable, and should be rejected by all right thinking people.

"Political leaders on both sides of the Irish Sea should reject the sentiments expressed by Mr Tebbit," Mr Adams said.

Mr McGuinness acknowledged that many victims of IRA violence would be angered by his attendance at the Windsor Castle event.


However, he added: "There are many victims on all sides and I think the contribution I have made over the course of the last several decades is something that is hugely significant and hugely important."

Mr McGuinness said he had been invited to the banquet by both the Queen and the Irish president and believed he had made the "right decision" to take part in a royal toast.

"There's really no point going to events like this, whenever the president of Ireland himself has been toasted, the Irish national anthem - my national anthem - has been played, and then snubbing the Queen and the British national anthem.

"So I think the vast majority of people on the island of Ireland will be very supportive of me contributing to a process of conflict resolution and very important acts of reconciliation."

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