Anger at US military award for McGuinness

Martin McGuinnessImage copyright

Victims of IRA violence have criticised the city of San Francisco for posthumously honouring Martin McGuinness for his “courageous service in the military”.

The Certificate of Honour is the US equivalent to freedom of a city.

It also recognises the former IRA leader’s role in the Northern Ireland peace process.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has invited the city’s mayor to visit NI to see how “terrorism still causes pain today”.

Mary Hamilton who was injured in the IRA bombing of Claudy in 1972 described the award as “disgusting.”

Now an Ulster Unionist party councillor, the former deputy Mayor of Derry, whose brother-in-law George Hamilton was also shot and killed by the IRA in 1972, said she broke down when she heard about the award.

“I remember every day the Claudy bomb victims, blown to pieces at my feet, and my brother-in-law, shot in the back, and who left behind a four-year-old child and a wife and to think Martin McGuinness is being honoured,” she told the Nolan Show.

Mrs Hamilton said she believed the Mayor of San Francisco, London Breed, who signed off on the award, had been ill-informed.

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(C) British Broadcasting Corporation

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The aftermath of the Claudy bombings in July 1972

“It is disgusting what they have done,” she said.

Ann Travers said she was “completely sickened” by the award to Mr McGuinness.

Her sister Mary was murdered by the IRA in Belfast in 1984. The target of the ambush was their father, Tom, a resident magistrate. He survived.

“There was nothing courageous about the IRA. As far as I am aware they were not a military organisation but a terrorist organisation.

“Martin McGuinness left behind as his legacy, people with a huge amount of hurt,” she said.

Ms Travers has emailed the mayor of San Francisco asking her to reconsider the award. She said she has also invited her to visit victims of IRA violence.

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The Poppy Day bomb in Enniskillen in 1987 brought widespread condemnation

Margaret Veitch, whose parents died in the IRA Enniskillen bombing, told the Belfast Telegraph the former deputy first minister, who died in 2017, had gone to his grave “an unrepentant terrorist”.

“Terrorists are terrorists the world over, except in Northern Ireland where they are put into government and given awards,” she said.

She added: “There’s not another country that would tolerate it. I don’t know what’s wrong with people that terrorists are now being honoured. Will San Francisco now be giving a posthumous honour to Osama bin Laden?”

Mrs Foster, the former first minister, has written to Andrew Whittaker, the British Consul General in San Francisco, to pass on a letter to the Mayor of San Francisco which details “some of the IRA’s activities” and extends an invitation to visit Northern Ireland to “find out first-hand from those who suffered from their terrorism.”

In a statement, Mrs Foster said that Mr McGuinness “undoubtedly played a very important role in the restoration of devolution” in his later life but “the earlier part of his life was one of violence”.

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Martin McGuiness served as Deputy First Minister with Arlene Foster as First Minister until he stood down in January 2017.

She said Mr McGuinness was “commander of the Provisional IRA Londonderry” during car bomb attacks in Claudy and Coleraine as well as the murder of Patsy Gillespie who was “used as human car bomb”.

Mrs Foster said these attacks are “likely to be unknown” to the San Francisco Mayor.

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie, a retired Army captain, also reacted angrily.

He tweeted to the Democratic mayor of San Francisco: “I fought shoulder to shoulder with your country after the 9/11 terrorist attack. Yet you honour terrorists who butchered men, women and children in mine. #ShameOnYou.”

Mr McGuinness died at the age of 66 in 2017.

He was second-in-command of the IRA in Derry at the time of Bloody Sunday.

In 1997, he became MP for Mid Ulster, by which time he was Sinn Fein’s chief negotiator in the peace process.

By 2007, he was Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister standing alongside First Minister Ian Paisley.

A Sinn Féin spokesman said the San Francisco award 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,” the spokesman said.