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Martin McGuinness' dad told him to get out of house after he joined IRA

Brother tells of ultimatum in TV documentary


Family: Tom McGuinness

Family: Tom McGuinness

Family: Tom McGuinness

Martin McGuinness' older brother has spoken of the moment he realised his sibling had joined the IRA, and of his later amazement after he was appointed as Stormont Education Minister.

Tom McGuinness made the comments in a new TG4 documentary exploring the divisive legacy left by the IRA leader-turned peace negotiator and politician.

Painting a detailed portrait of Martin McGuinness' life, the programme features interviews with Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Ian Paisley, as well as victims of Provo violence.

In a rare interview, Tom recalled his parents challenging his brother in their Bogside home when they learned he had joined the IRA.

"My father was puffing away on his pipe and sitting in the corner and he just said: 'If you want to live here boy... there's going to be none of that'.

"Martin stared back at him... not in an aggressive way, but didn't question him. Just turned, went upstairs.

"I could hear the noise in the front room, a bag being filled... and he came downstairs and said 'look, I have to go', as if the conversation with my father had terminated.

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"He said to my mother: 'Don't worry, I'll be back to see you frequently'. And that was the only dissent he ever showed throughout his life until that day. He was on the run, then, basically living in one house or another."

Mr McGuinness said he thought it "absurd" when his brother was appointed as Education Minister, having only attended "UCB" - University College Bogside.


Martin McGuinness

Martin McGuinness

Martin McGuinness

"Here's a guy who had no academic background whatsoever in the formal sense... failed the 11-plus along with his older brother.

"How's he going to handle the situation? But he took charge of a £1.6bn budget."

Mr Paisley, the North Antrim MP, spoke of accepting McGuinness in later years, given that he had considered members of the IRA who killed police officers and bombed cities and towns as "people to be absolutely detested".

"It never left me, the fact who Martin McGuinness was," he said. "I wasn't a fool to this, but someone else once said to me: 'What made you do the arrangements with the former terrorist Martin McGuinness?'

"And I said: 'The word former'."

Julie Hambleton's sister Maxine was one of 21 people killed in the IRA Birmingham pub bombings in 1974. She said McGuinness' IRA past could never be justified.

"When you kill one person you destroy a whole nucleus of a family. The impact of losing Maxine, and for all the families… it's immeasurable," she said.

"There is no excuse for Martin McGuinness, or anybody, to pick up a gun or a knife or make a bomb and plant it on innocents."

Brid Rodgers, a founding member of the SDLP, said she struggled to forget McGuinness' IRA past when they later became colleagues.

She recalled the story of Patsy Gillespie, a Catholic who worked in an Army base. In 1990, considered a collaborator by the IRA, he was forced to drive a van containing 1,000lbs of explosives to a border checkpoint while his family was held hostage.

The bomb killed Mr Gillespie and five soldiers.

The documentary is now available to stream online at tg4.ie.

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