Or not, as the case may be. Faced with evidence to the contrary, the Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, has admitted that he was not, as he had claimed in an interview with RTÉ’s Marian Finucane, in Portlaoise prison when “Patrick Duffy was killed and his body secretly buried”. As the News Letter reports
In a statement, [Martin McGuinness] said: “The facts are that I served a six-month sentence in Portlaoise jail in 1973 and another in 1974 and during the Marian Finucane interview, I mistakenly recalled that Patrick Duffy was killed and his body secretly buried, while I was in prison.
“I now know that these events occurred in August 1973, in the brief period when I was ‘on the run’, between these two prison sentences.
“I think it is understandable that after a period of four decades my recollection of the exact detail of dates and times was not accurate.
“However, I reject any accusation that I ‘lied’ about this or about my opposition to the disappearance of Patrick Duffy’s remains.
“The truth is that I voiced my strong opposition to Patrick Duffy’s disappearance and that very soon afterwards his body was returned”.
In fact, the “brief period [he] was ‘on the run’” lasted for 9 months, as Dixie Elliot recounted, from 16th May 1973, three months before Patrick Duffy was killed and disappeared, until 11th February 1974, 6 months after the murder – “living in his grandmother’s house in Illies outside Buncrana, Co. Donegal.”
Let’s look again at what Martin McGuinness told Marian Finucane,
MF – Can I ask you a question? Why did the IRA decide to disappear people after they’d been shot?
MMcG – Yea, Terrible. Absolutely terrible. And very, very wrong in my opinion. It was awful and I suppose in the context of what was a very bitter conflict where terrible things were happening on all sides this was one of the worst things that ever happened.
MF – Can you give us an insight into discussions that might have happened about that?
MMcG – Well, I wasn’t involved in any of those discussions at all. What I was involved in….
MF – Presumably you noticed it, presumably you knew, you knew…..I’m not asking you to name people or anything like that because…..but you knew people who were involved in the policy decision.
MMcG – No, I didn’t know people who were involved in the policy decision except to say when I became aware that this was happening I was very much of a view that everything possible should be done by republicans, and we’ve issued countless appeals to republicans who were involved in these scenarios to bring forward information. With considerable success. But there are still outstanding cases to be resolved.
MF – I appreciate that and I know how difficult it is for the families and all of that, very much so. But I thought that if somebody was a tout and they were going to be shot, that they would be shot and they would be left there as an example. What thinking came round to disappearing people?
MMcG – Well, only the people who took the decision can answer that question. I mean I remember, I remember, I remember being in Portlaoise prison in 1974 I think it was, and a man from Derry had been shot and the story was that he had been disappeared and had been buried somewhere or wherever and I was absolutely furious about it and it was actually when I got out of prison I met with local republicans and voiced my opposition and criticism of what happened and very soon afterwards that man’s body was returned. [added emphasis]
By Martin McGuinness’ own admission, his proffered sequence of events was entirely false.
It did, however, place him outside of any discussions about “the policy decision” for the purposes of the interview with RTÉ’s Marian Finucane.
What Martin McGuinness hasn’t yet addressed – given his claims of being “absolutely furious”, “horrified when [he] heard that this had happened” and having “voiced [his] strong opposition to Patrick Duffy’s disappearance” - is his appearance in Londonderry at a Provisional IRA commemoration on 18th August 1973. Patrick Duffy was ‘disappeared’ on the 9th August 1973.
According to the Derry Journal report of 21st August, “McGuinness was introduced as a member of Oglaigh Na h-Eireann”. From the Pensive Quill post
…far from being inside a prison cell at this time of Patrick Duffy’s death, McGuinness actually showed up on the streets of Derry just nine days after the alleged informer’s death and burial in a secret grave and shared a platform with another republican who condemned clerical criticism of Duffy’s killing and disappearance.
According to the Derry Journal, 21st August 1973, Martin McGuinness ‘made a dramatic public appearance’ at a Provisional IRA commemoration ceremony on the 18th August to mark the 2nd Anniversary of the death of Volunteer Eamonn Lafferty.
About 700 Republicans attended the ceremony at which McGuinness spoke before Barney McFadden, a leading member of Derry Sinn Fein, who condemned local priests who had called for the return of the body at Mass that morning. The priest’s condemnation and that of politicians was carried on the same page of the Journal.
And Newshound has transcribed Suzanne Breen’s report from the Sunday Life
At the rally, McGuinness shared a platform with Sinn Féin member Barney McFadden who, to loud applause, condemned a Catholic priest for calling on the IRA to return Duffy’s body.
The IRA sprinkled Patrick Duffy’s body with lime to speed up its decomposition once it was secretly buried.
Dixie Elliot and Mickey Donnelly said its exhumation and return to the family 16 days after Duffy’s disappearance was due solely to IRA internees in Long Kesh who voiced their disgust to McGuinness.
Donnelly said: “McGuinness’s account of what happened is a fairytale. He’s rewriting history to portray himself as a good guy.
“Our cage in Long Kesh was appalled when we heard the IRA had secretly buried someone. Being an informer carries the penalty of execution but it was another matter altogether to disappear a man.
“We wrote to McGuinness telling him the IRA were socialist republicans, not fascists. We said every family had the right to bury their dead with dignity.
“Patrick Duffy’s wife had worked tirelessly for republican prisoners. She had seven wee children at home, the youngest was only six weeks.
“We told McGuinness who was the OC (officer commanding) of Derry that if the body wasn’t returned we would condemn the IRA action publicly and embarrass the leadership.”
Donnelly said the ‘comm’, which was smuggled out of jail, was taken directly to McGuinness by his wife Martina: “She handed it to him personally. We told him in no uncertain terms what he had to do.”
The Derry internees’ threat worked because Duffy’s body was dug up by the IRA and left in a brand new coffin inside a car abandoned on the Derry-Donegal border on 24 August.
As Dixie Elliot told the Sunday Life
“There’s a pattern here of IRA leaders trying to distance themselves from unpleasant events. Gerry Adams told the McConvilles he was in jail when Jean disappeared when, just like Martin, he clearly was not.”