Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein refuses to say if Martin McGuinness got IRA medal

By Rachel Martin

Sinn Fein has been accused of hypocrisy after it declined to comment on whether Martin McGuinness had received a commemorative medal for IRA veterans.

The medal was struck by former IRA members for those who were part of the terror group in Londonderry between 1969 and 1972.

It is understood it was sent out this year to mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising.

The Sunday Independent reported the story and said Sinn Fein had been silent on whether Mr McGuinness received a medal.

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said it was "hypocritical".

"The people of Northern Ireland need honesty if we are ever going to move forward," he said.

"Martin McGuinness was very clear in his evidence to the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday when he revealed there were certain facts about his past he would not disclose 'under any circumstances'.

"It is hypocritical and undermining of the peace and political processes to refuse to disclose whether he received one of these so-called medals.

"Either he was proud of commanding what was then the world's deadliest terrorist organisation or he was not."

Unlike Gerry Adams, Mr McGuinness admitted being a member of the IRA but said he left in the mid-1970s - a claim gardai who served during the Troubles dispute.

The period marked by the medal covers the beginning of the IRA's no-warning bombing campaign in which the 'Derry Brigade' set off a car bomb in the mainly Protestant village of Claudy, killing nine people including a nine-year-old girl, Kathryn Eakin, in July 1972.

The Derry Brigade carried out hundreds of sniper and bomb attacks in the period and killed 22 British soldiers. Eight members of the unit also killed themselves either through accidental discharge of guns or premature bomb explosions.

Its campaign includedd concerted sectarian attacks on the small Protestant Diamond enclave on the west bank of the city, during which William King (49) was kicked to death by a mob of nationalist rioters.

Among those in the Republic who joined and travelled north to take part in the IRA activities was the then Dublin student radical Kieran Conway, who also received one of the commemorative IRA medals.

He was arrested while helping a group of IRA members including, he says, Mr McGuinness escape during a raid by British soldiers on a premises they were using for weapons training.

East Londonderry DUP MP Gregory Campbell said: "I don't see it as surprising given the nature of violent Irish republicanism - they live in a separate universe which seems to justify the unjustifiable.

"I have no doubt that some of the relatives of people who were terrorised will be equally traumatised that these people are being lauded by their organisation 40 years on."

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