An event paying tribute to victims of terrorism has heard condemnation of a US city’s decision to honour Martin McGuinness’s “courageous service in the military”.
Some of those bereaved and injured by the IRA heavily criticised the award bestowed by the city of San Francisco as they attended the commemoration in Belfast.
They were reacting to the citation dedicated to the late Mr McGuinness signed by San Francisco mayor London Breed ahead of St Patrick’s Day.
The tribute to the former IRA commander turned political leader hailed his work bringing peace to Northern Ireland but also praised his courage in military action.
Martin McGuinness wasn't in an army - he was a terrorist, he was the leader of the terroristsDavid Kerrigan
Mervyn Lewers, a retired policeman from Mr McGuinness’s native Londonderry, who lost both legs in an IRA under-car bombing, expressed his anger at the event to mark European Day for Victims of Terrorism.
“Can I say how disgusted I feel on the award that was given to Martin McGuinness,” he said.
“I was born and raised in Londonderry when Martin McGuinness was IRA commander in the city at the time.”
David Kerrigan’s sister Heather was a 20-year-old corporal in the Ulster Defence Regiment when she was killed in an IRA landmine blast just outside their home town of Castlederg, Co Tyrone, in 1984.
Mr Kerrigan was on the same patrol and was badly injured in the attack.
“Martin McGuinness wasn’t in an army – he was a terrorist, he was the leader of the terrorists,” he said after Monday’s commemoration in Parliament Buildings.
“We were just disgusted when we heard it.”
Mr Kerrigan’s wife Irene said she could not understand the mindset of those behind the US award.
“You had the twin towers atrocity in America, they realise what terrorists are,” she said.
“I don’t really know how any right-thinking person would give a man like that an award like that.”
She added: “Victims are being let down and Martin McGuinness has died a hero practically and innocent victims have died and have been forgotten about by our own politicians and the government.”
Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister, who hosted the event in the Senate Chamber, also condemned the citation.
“We meet under the shadow of that retraumatising insult from San Francisco to honour murder,” he said.
“We are here today to honour the victims of murder and of murderous attacks.
“We are not here to salute, to embrace the actions of victim makers, we are here to salute the memory of their many innocent victims.”
A Sinn Fein spokesman said: “This honour from the city and county of San Francisco is a welcome recognition of the life and legacy of Martin McGuinness.
“Martin McGuinness made a colossal contribution to the peace process, Irish unity and reconciliation.
“His remarkable life and legacy has been celebrated and recognised across the world.”