San Francisco's mayor 'sorry' over Martin McGuinness award
The Mayor of San Francisco has apologised for the "pain" caused by her city's posthumous award of a Certificate of Honour to former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness which cited his "courageous service in the military".
The citation lauded Mr McGuinness' role as a "negotiator" who "helped cement and shape the Northern Ireland Peace Process and construct the Good Friday Agreement", but it sparked fury for also praising his "military" role.
In a statement issued to the Belfast Telegraph last night, San Francisco Mayor London Breed admitted that the "language on the Certificate of Honour should have taken more care" to apply her city's values of "respect for the democratic process and non-violent political actions".
The apology came after widespread condemnation from politicians and IRA victims.
Ms Breed stated: "As part of San Francisco's annual St Patrick's Day festivities, the Mayor of San Francisco has traditionally provided Certificates of Honour to the Honorary Grand Marshalls selected by the United Irish Societies of San Francisco.
"This year, Martin McGuinness was selected as one of the five Grand Marshalls. San Francisco values means respect for the democratic process and non-violent political actions.
"The language on the Certificate of Honour should have taken more care to apply these values when reflecting the history of Mr McGuinness's life towards peacemaker and his role in the peace process that resulted in the Good Friday Agreement.
"I apologise for the pain this certificate has caused."
However, the statement did not clarify whether the honour granted to Mr McGuinness would now be withdrawn.
More than 2,200 people have signed an online petition asking Ms Breed to rescind the honour.
Prior to the issuing of the apology, UUP MLA Doug Beattie released an open letter to Ms Breed in which he said the Certificate of Honour is something that "spits in the faces" of IRA victims.
Yesterday, DUP leader Arlene Foster revealed that she had asked British Consul General in San Francisco, Andrew Whittaker, to pass on a letter to Ms Breed detailing some of the IRA's activities, and inviting the US representative to visit Northern Ireland to learn about the impact of terrorism.
Mr Beattie, who received the Military Cross after service in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia alongside US forces, said the award had caused "great hurt and offence".
"After the horrific terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers the first nation to stand with you was the United Kingdom," he wrote.
"Yet as the Mayor of San Francisco you repay us by honouring a terrorist and leader of an organisation that butchered men, women and children throughout the United Kingdom.
"Just imagine if the United Kingdom, your loyal friend and ally, honoured Osama Bin Laden? This award spits in the faces of victims who lost their loved ones to a blood-crazed organisation - the Provisional IRA - which was led and supported by Martin McGuinness.
"In bestowing this award have stabbed those who came to your country's help in your hour of need in the back."
Mr Beattie asked Ms Breed to "reverse this despicable decision".
In a separate open letter, East Londonderry DUP MP Gregory Campbell also asked Ms Breed to "reconsider" the award, saying that the reference to Martin McGuinness' "courageous service in the military" had "caused widespread anger and hurt among the thousands of victims of IRA violence. This is because Martin McGuinness had previously declared that he was the second in command of that organisation when it was extremely active murdering innocent people and causing significant community unrest," he added.
Mr Campbell also asked Ms Breed that the "retraumatising effect" on victims be considered when deciding future awards.
Mrs Foster acknowledged that Mr McGuinness had "undoubtedly played a very important role in the restoration of devolution", but added that "the earlier part of his life was one of violence".
She said that Claudy and Coleraine had "suffered indiscriminate car bomb attacks" when Mr McGuinness was a commander of the Provisional IRA in Londonderry.
"These were bomb attacks which murdered pensioners and young children, a reality of IRA terrorism which is likely to be unknown to the Mayor of San Francisco," she said.
"Neither is it likely she would be aware of the IRA's murder of Patsy Gillespie who was used as a human bomb by the Provisional IRA."
She added that Mr McGuinness "did not reveal the full details of his activities in the IRA and other members" and said his "account of when he left the IRA also does not stand up to detailed scrutiny".
Last year, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's was slammed for branding St Patrick's Day 2018 as 'Gerry Adams Day'.