Are not, never were, and never will be.. criminals that is.

The Irish Times carries a report from its Northern Editor, Gerry Moriarty, that has a quote from Martin McGuinness (a quote that the Irish News, in its report, missed) that highlights the dangerous gulf that exists between the image that the leadership of Sinn Féin continue to try to promote, and what both Governments, and all other parties, now acknowledge is a fundamental problem in the ongoing political process – “The IRA are not criminals, never were criminals and in my[McGuinness’s] opinion never will be criminals“It’s a declaration that undermines the repeated denials, from SF, of IRA involvement in any criminal activity and it flies in the face of the reality of convictions of IRA members for, for example, the attempted armed robbery of a post office van in Adare, Limerick in 1996 and the convictions for the killing of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe during that attempted robbery.

The report also includes another warning from SF president Gerry Adams –

Sinn Féin members must prepare to resist any campaign of discrimination by the two governments against its electorate – although elsewhere he’s at pains to define that ‘resistance’ – resistance should be in the form of “entirely peaceful democratic strategies”

Full report
Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor

Sinn Féin’s chief negotiator, Mr Martin McGuinness, has stated that he “risked” his life for the peace process and would not do anything to damage it.

Mr McGuinness said at a Belfast press conference yesterday that he took “grave exception” to the “absolutely ludicrous suggestion” by the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, that the Sinn Féin leadership was aware of the plan to rob the bank.

“What do they think I would be doing if someone told me they intended to rob the Northern Bank?

“I can tell you I would be a very disillusioned Irish republican if someone said to me they were prepared to put a process that I have put my life and soul into, that I have risked my very life for, at risk for 10 or 20 or 30 million pounds – in my opinion it would not be worth it,” Mr McGuinness added.

Mr McGuinness said republicans were also angry at the governments’ attempt to criminalise them.

“The IRA are not criminals, never were criminals, and in my opinion never will be criminals,” he said.

Referring to the statement by the Northern Secretary, Mr Paul Murphy, to the House of Commons on Tuesday, Mr McGuinness said he was not going to be “lectured” about criminality given the British government’s record in Ireland.

“Successive British governments have presided over a planned and organised campaign of state-sanctioned murder against the broad nationalist community,” he said.

In a separate statement the Sinn Féin president, Mr Gerry Adams, indicated that he expected British government sanctions against Sinn Féin over the alleged IRA robbery of £26.5 million from the Northern Bank.

Mr Adams told the current edition of the republican paper, An Phoblacht, that Sinn Féin members must prepare to resist any campaign of discrimination by the two governments against its electorate.

“The British government now appears to be considering a return to the failed policy of discrimination against Sinn Féin, and the Irish Government for its own reasons appears to be in support of this,” he said.

“Sinn Féin rejects any attack on our democratic and electoral mandate. I have spoken to senior officials in both governments and made this very clear to them.”

Mr Adams said that the Taoiseach’s allegation against the party leadership created difficulties in the relationship between Sinn Féin and the Government.

“I reject these accusations totally and I am disappointed that the Taoiseach didn’t raise any concerns he might have with me directly.”

Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness said they were seeking meetings with the British and Irish governments next week.

© The Irish Times