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Labelling dissidents traitors was remarkable, says Orde

By Claire O'Boyle

Martin McGuinness' branding of dissident republicans as "traitors" to Ireland marked one of the most "extraordinary moments" of Sir Hugh Orde's career, the former Chief Constable has said.

Sir Hugh, who was responsible for overseeing the reform of policing in Northern Ireland, said former IRA commander Mr McGuinness had been furious about the 2009 murder of PSNI officer Stephen Carroll.

"I went out and briefed the press and then Martin came up with that statement which - had I not been so tired - I think I would have fallen over," said Sir Hugh.

"He was clearly very angry and he clearly saw that the violent struggle had ended and the political way forward was the right way and that these people had nothing to do with modern republicanism and political influence and democracy."

Constable Carroll was the first police officer to be killed since the establishment of the PSNI.

His murder, claimed by the Continuity IRA, was widely condemned - most notably by Mr McGuinness who described the killers as "traitors to the island of Ireland" two days later.

He said: "They have betrayed the political desires, hopes and aspirations of all of the people who live on this island."

Kate Carroll, who was left a widow after the ruthless attack, this week revealed she had spoken personally to Mr McGuinness and believed he was remorseful about the violence of the past.

"He had connections with an outlawed terrorist organisation, but I think in his time in Stormont Martin McGuinness did try to make a difference," she said. "He shook hands with the Queen, he tried to step forward and change things. I spoke to him once and he apologised again for Steve's death, he said it was terrible. He reiterated that he thought these people were traitors. It wasn't so much a comfort to hear those words - I'd lost my husband as a result of the conflict - but I thought he seemed remorseful.

"It's not up to me to forgive Martin McGuinness for his past or the men who killed my husband - that's up to Steven.

"But I certainly didn't wish the man dead.

"Life is special, it's precious and the loss of it is not to be taken lightly."

Mrs Carroll (right) said while she experienced very dark days after her husband's murder, she has battled over the years to move on and make the most of her life.

"I know why some people still feel so angry," she said.

"I really understand that. In the earlier part of my experience I found it hard to get up each day, to comprehend how anyone would ever do that sort of thing over a piece of ground.

"But there came a time when I had to move forward or, I thought, it would end up killing me as well. I couldn't let that happen.

"From my own point of view I didn't want them to occupy that place in my head anymore.

"I'll never forget in a million years, but if I'm going to live my life and make a difference I have to try and be positive.

"I know people do things differently, but trying to move on as best I can is my own way of coping."

Yesterday Sir Hugh described his relationship with Mr McGuinness as "professional". "When I took over in 2002, Sinn Fein had not even joined policing... they wouldn't join policing," he told the BBC.

"I had stood opposite him in the White House during a St Patrick's Day event and they would not speak to me."

However things improved.

"I met him many times and it was extraordinary as chief constable briefing the First Minister and Deputy First Minister on policing and security issues mindful of his background," said Sir Hugh.

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