Belfast Telegraph

Ruthless Provo or builder of peace? Victims split over Martin McGuinness legacy

By Allan Preston

From praise for his work as a peacemaker to condemnation for his IRA past, Martin McGuinness's resignation has provoked contrasting reactions.

The former Deputy First Minister McGuinness confirmed on Thursday that he would not be standing in the upcoming Assembly election.

His decision, which he said was influenced by "a very serious illness", was met with sharply divided reactions from people who knew him and those who suffered at the hands of terrorist violence.

Stephen Gault, who was seriously injured and whose father was killed in 1987 IRA Remembrance Day bombing in Enniskillen, said his it was "hurtful" to see Mr McGuinness praised as a peacemaker, insisting his retirement announcement should have included an apology.

"He's been hailed as this hero and statesman, (but) I still see him as Martin McGuinness, the terrorist whose organisation brutally murdered my father," he added.

"I live in pain for the actions of his organisation. He legitimises what the IRA did and shows no remorse, and I find that very difficult to accept."

Marcus Babington's father, James Henry Babington, was gunned down by the IRA in Belfast while walking to work in 1989."My family have had nothing but torment over the last 30 years," he said. "The IRA aren't prepared to name the people who killed my father."

"Martin McGuinness is in a position to give a lot of families closure, but he refuses to do it. Now he wants to retire peacefully with his family. It's a lot more than we ever had."

Ann Travers, whose sister, Mary was shot dead in 1984 by the IRA as she walked home from Mass in south Belfast, added: "He has been allowed to go on a journey many of the IRA's victims haven't. They have been swept aside in a sea of political correctness."

Alex Bunting lost his leg in 1991 when an IRA bomb exploded under his taxi. He was recently awarded an MBE for his work as a victims campaigner, often working with Mr McGuinness.

"I always found he was very reasonable and upfront," he said. "He told me was going to lead from the front and he stuck to his word.

"He and others did cause an awful lot of pain and hurt within the victims community. But he did get (the peace process) to the table. People aren't dying anymore and bombs aren't going off. I think that he will be missed when he goes and I wish him well."

Jude Whyte who lost his mother, Peggy, to a UVF bomb in 1984, said Mr McGuinnness was a "shining example" to peacemakers. "In my view he has made a massive contribution to the process of peace," he added.

"Speaking as a victim of violence, we have to take cognisance of the hurt within the unionist community brought against them by the republican movement."

Mr Whyte also compared Mr McGuinness to late PUP leader David Ervine. "My life was destroyed by the UVF and my saviour in many respects - from mental ill health, drug addiction and maybe alcoholism - was possibly the best known UVF man ever, David Ervine," he said.

"Forgiveness is the most liberating thing on this earth for people who have been hurt. We're all getting old so, to leave something decent to our children, it's now time to forgive."

Robert McClenaghan lost his grandfather in the 1971 UVF bombing of McGurk's Bar. He said: "In many ways Martin McGuinness and the Queen of England set the standard for people like us working on the ground on issues like legacy and the past. Their gesture of a handshake and reconciliation was massive.

"What's my gesture of reconciliation towards the family who murdered my grandfather? Should I not extend the hand towards them if we're going to build peace and reconciliation in this country?"

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