Martin McGuinness 'ashamed' of IRA bomb deaths

Eleven people were killed in the explosion at the Cenotaph in Enniskillen in 1987
Image caption Eleven people were killed in the explosion at the Cenotaph in Enniskillen in 1987

Irish presidential candidate Martin McGuinness has said he felt ashamed when incidents, such as the Enniskillen bombing, were carried out in the name of Irish republicanism.

Mr McGuinness said the 1987 bombing, in which 11 people were killed at the Cenotaph, was atrocious.

He also denied he was a senior figure in the IRA at the time.

However, a relative of one of the victims said Mr McGuinness was trying to distance himself from the IRA.

Mr McGuinness was speaking to RTE as part of the broadcaster's election coverage.

He is one of seven candidates who will appear on the ballot paper for the 27 October election.

Meanwhile, a lawyer for the family of a murdered RUC officer is calling on Mr McGuinness to come forward with any information that would assist the Smithwick Tribunal.

Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan were killed in an IRA ambush in south Armagh after they left a meeting in Dundalk Garda station on 20 March 1989.

The Smithwick Tribunal is investigating allegations of Garda collusion in their deaths.

John McBurney, solicitor for the Breen family, said Mr McGuinness's comment on the Enniskillen bomb "raises questions about whether he feels ashamed at what happened to Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan".

He said that in evidnce heard at the tribunal so far "at least one witness has made reference to Martin McGuinness in some general way".

In response, Mr McGuinness said: "This tribunal along with others was established to try and help families get to the truth about the deaths of their loved ones.

"Republicans have already displayed a willingness to co-operate fully with the work of the Smithwick Tribunal.

"Although I have no direct knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the killings being investigated by the Smithwick Tribunal, I have no problem at all attending the tribunal if it is of assistance to the families and to the overall process."


Earlier, when asked on RTE about the Enniskillen bombing, Mr McGuinness said: "I feel ashamed when incidents like that happened.

"I know that the journalists, if they had the opportunity, would blame me for the 1916 Rising and the war of independence."

Mr McGuinness said he would like to be seen as someone "who stood by the ordinary people of Ireland and led by example" and was an inspiration for those people.

"That's why I took the decision that the vast bulk of my salary would go back to the Irish people," he said.

"I also want to be seen as a peace-maker and someone who continued to keep the doors of Aras an Uachtarain open for unionists and loyalists and for victims of the conflict."

Image caption Miriam O'Callaghan interviewed Martin McGuinness about his presidential bid

Stephen Gault's father was killed in the Ennikillen bombing and he was badly injured.

He described Mr McGuinness's remarks as a "tactical move" aiming at "trying to distance himself from the IRA in his campaign to become Irish president".

Mr Gault said he did not believe Mr McGuinness's claim that he was not a senior figure in the IRA at the time of the Enniskillen bomb.

He said the senior Sinn Fein man's remarks "were not an apology".

"Personally, I think it's too little, too late."

He said the possibility of Martin McGuinness being elected Irish president was "a bitter pill".

"This man has run Northern Ireland for the past few years in his role as deputy first minister, now he is going to be glorified as this head of state of the Republic of Ireland.

"I know he said he would more or less serve the 32 counties, he wouldn't serve me."

South Tyrone MLA Arlene Foster said if Mr McGuinness was "truly ashamed of the PIRA's role in the Enniskillen poppy day bomb," he would have no difficulty in co-operating with the Historical Enquiries Team which is currently re-examining the atrocity.

"Rather than proposing an international truth commission to deal with these matters, it would be much more helpful to the healing process if McGuinness was to tell the truth about this incident to the HET," Ms Foster said.

Nominations for the presidency closed at midnight on Wednesday.

Senator David Norris and former pop star Dana Rosemary Scallon received last minute backing from local councils to secure their places on the ballot.

They joined independents Sean Gallagher and Mary Davis, Labour's Michael D Higgins and Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell.

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