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McGuinness conference invite set to anger Conservatives

The Conservative Party has invited Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness to speak at their annual party conference, it has emerged.

The Deputy First Minster is to be asked to speak at a fringe event at the conference in October in a move which is expected to provoke outrage from senior Tories.

Mr McGuinness is on the speakers’ list at a breakfast organised by Champ, a not-for-profit organisation that has encouraged dialogue since its foundation in 2002.

First Minister Peter Robinson is also on the list of speakers.

But the decision to invite Mr McGuinness — a one-time IRA commander — to the event is likely to cause anger among Tories.

In 1984 an IRA bomb at the Grand Hotel in Brighton where Conservatives were staying during their conference killed five people.

Several more were wounded, including Margaret Tebbit, wife of then Cabinet Minister Norman Tebbit, who was permanently disabled.

Last year Mr McGuinness attended a breakfast organised by Champ during the Labour conference in the same hotel — angering some senior Tories.

Lord Tebbit furiously condemned Mr McGuinness’s presence in the hotel.

At the time, he said he imagined Mr McGuinness had gone to Brighton “to have a look around to see why the [1984] plot failed”.

One of the organisers of the event, Conor McGinn, told the Irish Times: “The Northern Ireland breakfast is one of the annual fixtures now at the conference of the party in government.

“Leading politicians from Northern Ireland from all parties, along with the secretary of state, have been invited. We do not see it being any different this year.”

Mr McGuinness’s attendance at the Conservative conference, which will be held in Manchester in early October, will be a first for a Sinn Fein figure.

Last month Prime Minister David Cameron admitted he finds it “painful” to work with Mr McGuinness, but said it was a “price worth paying” for peace.

Mr Cameron referred to senior Tory figures Ian Gow and Airey Neave, who were both killed in republican attacks.

“I do find it painful that I now sometimes sit around a table with Martin McGuinness and I think about what that man did,” he said.

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