Belfast Telegraph

Martin McGuinness: I found Jane Fonda in my kitchen

BY ALYSON HENRY

Jane Fonda paid a surprise visit to the home of Martin McGuinness at the height of the Troubles.

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister revealed how he returned to his home in Londonderry's Bogside after Sunday Mass to find the actress sitting in his kitchen with his wife and eldest child Aine.

It was 1976 and the Oscar winner and her then husband Tom Hayden had been visiting Ireland, and had travelled to Derry to see McGuinness.

The McGuinness family showed the famous couple around Bogside and then made them dinner.

"They stayed with us all day," McGuinness told RTE's Marian Finucane.

At the time of Fonda's visit, loyalist and republican violence was rife throughout Northern Ireland.

"It was clear she had a real interest in what was going on," McGuinness said.

The visit sparked an unlikely friendship between McGuinness and the Hollywood star. Fonda even sent a large box of baby clothes several months later on the birth of the Sinn Fein member's third child.

McGuinness, who was the chief-of-staff of the Provisional IRA between 1978 and 1982, also told how his parents were "horrified" when a local priest arrived at their door to say their son had been searching for parts to make "destructive devices".

To pacify the situation, McGuinness was sent to stay with his grandmother in Buncrana in Donegal for a while.

He described his parents as "very religious people" and said their primary concern was always his safety.

"They knew people from outside the family were aware me and my friends had been looking for substances to use against the police. But they understood the circumstances," he said.

After his father's death in 1973, McGuinness said his mother continued to be very supportive of all his endeavours and described her as "a Republican in her own right".

He said Derry as "an occupied city" in the 1970s had a profound effect on him and led him into politics.

When MsFinucane reminded McGuinness he had previously vowed problems in Northern Ireland would "never be solved with votes but with military activity", McGuinness responded: "At the time, that was what I believed."

McGuinness said he read numerous academic dissertations during the Troubles, which all concluded that the British Army couldn't militarily beat the IRA. But he claimed he had a reverse thought – that neither could the IRA defeat the British.

He became motivated to convince people change could only happen through politics.

The former Provisional IRA leader said Bobby Sands' death on hunger strike in 1981 was a turning point for him and led to the decision for McGuinness and Gerry Adams to enter into politics as a way of "representing the views of the people in the North".

McGuinness also praised President Michael D Higgins for his efforts in maintaining healthy relations with the UK, describing him as "everything a President should be".

Asked if he would consider running for Presidency again following his unsuccessful attempt in 2011, McGuinness laughed and said: "I don't know. I'll vote for Michael D."

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