Despite the pre-broadcast coverage, Peter Taylor’s Age of Terror programme on the Enniskillen bombing didn’t uncover much more material than most already knew. And yet the fact that the deputy First Minister felt the need to issue a denial of the claims made in the programme in advance of the broadcast was in itself revealing. As Malachi O’Doherty asks here
All Taylor really told us about McGuinness is that he was a top Provo. It is what we knew. Logically his telling us changes nothing and yet, potentially, it changes everything. McGuinness himself may think that most of us believe his claim that he left the IRA in 1973. No one at all believes that, least of all those who loudly proclaim it. But we know our Martin and forgive him, don’t we?
The problem with McGuinness is that his constant denials of his past are believed by neither his friends nor his foes. They not only undermine his own credibility but also make a mockery of Sinn Féin’s demands for the truth about the past.
This all happened on McGuinness’s watch and was part of a political strategy which claimed many lives. It’s hard for him to discuss it now but in 2003, when he gave evidence at the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, McGuinness had the perfect opportunity to put the record straight about his membership of the IRA.
Under Lord Saville’s rules, a witness could not have been prosecuted on the basis of any statement made in the Inquiry. If McGuinness had told the truth, even in broad outline, he could later have referred Taylor and other questioners back to his evidence, thus gaining respect. Instead he insisted under cross examination “I left the IRA in the early part of the 1970s.”
When I put it to Hughes that his recollection of McGuinness’s insistence on more attacks in 1986 contradicted McGuinness’s sworn evidence that he had resigned from the IRA in the 70s, Hughes replied “He will have to answer that question himself. When people get caught up in lies, they have to continue with the lies.”
“Continuing with lies” may be the least risky option for McGuinness, but it corrupts the entire political process.
That strategy was, at least in part, adopted because the current Sinn Féin leadership “was of the view that no military solution was possible..”