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Martin McGuinness: I would have no difficulty with talking about my IRA past

Deputy First Minister backs progress on legacy issues, but it must be two-way street

By Noel McAdam

Published 27/08/2016

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness
Martin McGuinness in the 1980s

Martin McGuinness has revealed he may be prepared to reveal more about his IRA past.

The Deputy First Minister said he would have "no difficulty" if new truth recovery mechanisms connected him to victims from the Troubles.

The senior Sinn Fein figure told Sky News that if people levelled allegations "then I will deal with that".

He was referring to the impasse that has prevented progress on dealing with the legacy of the past.

Plans for a new historical investigations team and a truth recovery process have been stymied amid claims that British national security could be compromised in some cases.

The former Provo second-in-command insisted the UK Government had to "open its files" if progress was to be made.

His comments came amid speculation at Stormont that agreement on a mechanism for handling individual cases was moving closer.

The political focus remains around the creation of an Historical Investigations Unit, an Independent Commission on Information Retrieval and an Implementation and Reconciliation Group.

Mr McGuinness said: "What we need to see is, first of all, the agreements go live, because that will be the test for both the British Government and for Irish republicans as to whether or not they are willing to co-operate to satisfy the needs of victims," he said.

Sky Ireland correspondent David Blevins asked if the Deputy First Minister was "at a point where you're ready to tell the truth about what you did and about what you know?".

Mr McGuinness replied: "Well, you see the mechanisms and structures that we have agreed be established make provision for families who have a grievance and who are requiring a resolution to their grievance to go forward to these tribunals.

"If, in any circumstance, any of that has a connection with myself, in relation to people levelling allegations or whatever, then I will deal with that.

"That's not a difficulty for me whatsoever."

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said his comments were "an insult"

He said: Ulster Unionist Leader, Mike Nesbitt MLA, has described comments from Martin McGuinness that he will deal with allegations in relation to himself, if the British Government opens up its files, as “an insult”.

He said: "For Martin McGuinness to demand the British Government open up its files in their totality, in return for a promise that he will only talk about what he may or may not have done as an individual terrorist is arrogance beyond description for a man reputed to be the Republican movement’s chief negotiator.

“There is nothing to negotiate here. Remember what he told the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday – he said there were certain things he would not discuss ‘under any circumstances’.  He is not offering to disclose who else he committed his acts of terrorism with, or help bring truth and acknowledgement to the vast majority of the IRA’s victims, he is simply making an outrageous demand of the British Government that he knows cannot be met.

“Every government has a legitimate right to withhold information on the grounds of national security, and to honour its duty to protect the lives of its citizens. Martin McGuinness knows that very well and it would assist the effort to deal with the past if he were to acknowledge that fact, rather than engage in outrageous and offensive demands."

Meanwhile, the top officer who has been put in charges of legacy issues, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, said the new police service had not been established to handle investigations relating to the period of the conflict.

"The PSNI has 6,700 officers. You could argue you could put every one of them toward resolving the issues of the Troubles, but we weren't created to do that," he told Sky News.

"The PSNI was created as a result of the peace process to police a new arrangement.

"Therefore, there aren't the resources in play today to investigate all these crimes concurrently, and therefore we have to apply some kind of mechanism to decide what we can do in the timescales that we have."

On the national security issue, he said: "It's really important that the police service in particular doesn't hide away from embarrassing facts, from uncomfortable truths..."

He said Chief Constable George Hamilton "is very clear about that, and nor are we going to".

And the Assistant Chief Constable added: "Equally, it's really important, though, that we don't hand out information that would put lives at risk."

Last autumn the Fresh Start deal between the DUP and Sinn Fein, along with the British and Irish Governments, failed to include any detail about the legacy issues.

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