#Aras11 Round Up: The ‘Let’s Get McGuinness’ Edition…

First of an occasional series from now until the presidential election, a round up:

– In the letters section of the Irish Times, from Brian Bourke in London:

It seems to me the candidacy of Martin McGuinness is polarising the nation. On the one side we have blind optimism that he may actually stand a chance of being elected. On the other there is blind fear that he might actually stand a chance of being elected.

– If this campaign is getting dirtier it just went up a gear just as David Norris was a hair’s breadth from getting back into the race

– Sean Gallagher warns against getting drawn into a party political puppet show

– George Byrne repeats Gay Byrne’s line that Martin and Gerry are ‘habitual and well-practised liars’…

So, the second in command of the IRA in Derry in 1972 wasn’t even indirectly involved in having anyone killed? Oh, and David Norris is straight.

– Liam Clarke articulates Mr McGuinness’ existential problem. If he admitted the truth, he’d be slung in jail..

– Vincent Browne, definitely not one of the ‘usual suspects’, lauds Martin McGuinness’ contribution to the peace process but says that his story regarding his role in the IRA just doesn’t stack up:

…his record as a leader of the IRA at a time when the most appalling atrocities were perpetrated and for which ^ as a leader, activist and apologist of the IRA ^ he bears a responsibility. According to the encyclopaedia of killings in Northern Ireland, Lost Lives, the IRA was responsible for 48.8 per cent of all deaths,1,771 out of a total of 3,636.

No other organisation was responsible for anything like that carnage (547 by the UVF, 408 by the UDA, 301 by the British army, 52 by the RUC, eight by theUDR). We do not know the extent to which McGuiness was involved in any of these atrocities, but some people do know and, as the years go by, some of these people are likely to tell their stories. If he is then president of Ireland, it won’t be edifying.

His SBP colleague Tom McGurk has a fascinating counter-take on the same phenomenon, arguing it says more about the complacent media culture of metro Dublin than Sinn Fein’s presidential candidate:

The majority of media commentators grew up during the Troubles, yet so many of them ‘born and bred here’ fail to understand the historical antecedents of McGuinness. Has a new generation consciously freed itself fromall that historical baggage? The media also reflect a new southern zeitgeist that the peace process was essentially about getting the Northern crisis off the backs of the 26 counties. Since peace broke out, the invisible chasm of partitionism has deepened. Now, like Banquo’s ghost, McGuinness is back to frighten the South out of its post-Celtic tiger, IMF-induced slumbers.[emphasis added]

– In the Sindo, Ronan Fanning holds Fianna Fail responsible for dropping the Republic’s ‘long handled spoon’:

Fianna Fail has a special responsibility in this election because it was the party’s pusillanimous refusal to field a candidate — Brian Crowley was the obvious choice — that created such an irresistible opportunity for Sinn Fein to run McGuinness. There is now a real danger that what much of remains of the hardcore Fianna Fail vote, still smarting from the humiliation of their catastrophic performance in the general election, will find the temptation to embarrass the Government by keeping Michael D Higgins and Gay Mitchell out of the Aras likewise irresistible and that they will desert in droves to McGuinness. Such lunatic behaviour would, of course, only improve the prospects of Sinn Fein becoming the main opposition party at the next election.

– And speaking of long handled spoons, here’s Shane Ross on why he backed David Norris, but plans to vote for Michael D Higgins…

– And last word to David Adams, who notes of those now lambasting McGuinness:

It’s a bit rich for those who lambasted unionists for complaining he wasn’t a suitable person to be deputy first minister to be dragging up his past now. Either we support the agreement, and its implications, or we don’t. There have been harder pills to swallow than McGuinness running for the Áras.

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  • Nordie Northsider

    I never thought that Liam Clarke would be giving good advice to SF, but he is spot on when he says that the ‘I cannot implicate former comrades’ answer is the only semi-credible response to questioning of senior SF figures about their IRA careers. It might anger people, but it’s better than flat denial or plucking entry/exit dates out of the air.

    A danger for McGuinness is that the Presidential election is almost totally about his candidacy, to the exclusion of things people actually want to talk about. He’ll say that it’s not his fault if the media fixate on him, but people are impatient with it, and might just punish him for the debate that never was.

  • Mick Fealty

    As an aside, you often get better advice from your critics than your friends… the SDLP’s fifteen year (plus+) grump with Brian Feeney has served them very poorly…

  • granni trixie

    “he would say that,wouldnt he” is my response to David Adams – was he not not a former “combatant” prior to turning to journalism? (do correct me if I’m wrong). I note commonly SF and Loyalists with bloody pasts in self interest promote narratives which play down what they have done. And they support each others take.

    MMG as President would be a living symbol that legitimises IRA killing campaigns. It is also likely that the role would become an element in the SF project, a politicisation which would impact negatively on reconciliation (think of the dis-service politicalization has done to the Irish language and culture).

    It may not be the worst thing for MMG to become |President but surely the people deserve better?

  • “I never thought that Liam Clarke would be giving good advice to SF, but he is spot on when he says that the ‘I cannot implicate former comrades’ answer is the only semi-credible response to questioning of senior SF figures about their IRA careers. It might anger people, but it’s better than flat denial or plucking entry/exit dates out of the air.”

    No he wouldn’t be able to say that and then in the next breath tell everyone to support the PSNI. Before long it he would get drawn into an atrocity circus and questioned about the morality of every incident.

  • MonkDeWallyDeHonk


    An excellent point. I’m an ex SDLP voter and I thought Brian Feeney was the most effective person in it. His analysis is still far superior to that of anyone in the SDLP.

    The SDLP would always have struggled against SF. However, I think that Feeney would have been more successful than any of the post Hume leaders although that’s not saying much.

    They also drove out Martin Morgan who showed promise.

    I doubt they’ll change their ways now and will continue their “grump” against Feeney as opposed to analysing his opinions.

    As you say, it’s served them very poorly and will continue to so do.

  • Nordie Northsider

    But he says something very like it now, Ulick. You could nearly recite it yourself: ‘Those were different times’ ‘Move the process forward’ etc etc.

  • “those now lambasting McGuinness”

    Cormac Lucey, former special adviser to Michael McDowell: “Martin McGuinness: Not so Much a Peacemaker as Someone Who Stopped Making War”

    The President should be a unifying national figure, not a divisive leftover of a vicious civil war marinated in so much moral compromise that it makes a complicated John le Carré plot look like a model of clarity.

    Cormac obviously doesn’t relish the prospect of this particular parapolitician in the Aras.

  • “some of these people are likely to tell their stories.”

    Suzanne Breen has given the current Hegarty family view of Martin’s path:

    The Hegartys said this weekend they wanted to warn others that beneath the Sinn Féin presidential candidate’s charming manner lay a ruthless, deceitful man.

    ‘We have no party-political agenda – but given our family’s experience of Martin McGuinness, we hope and pray the people of Ireland will see through the façade, too,’ they told the MoS.

  • The credible line to take is surely ” I’ve been on a journey from armalite, to armalite and ballot box , to exclusively ballot box. I won’t be answering detailed questions about my past for obvious reasons but I will explain to you why I am now a man of peace and how I came to give up the armed struggle.”

    As of now he’s saying he left the PIRA in the mid 70s and played no further part, in other words he’s re-writing history, just like Gerry who was never a member. Maybe we should call it the Revisional IRA.

  • Neil

    The President should be a unifying national figure, not a divisive leftover of a vicious civil war

    History is littered with exceptions to that ‘rule’.

    One can’t help but think that relentlessly negative statements might play in Marty’s favour, though I would imagine he has a slim chance of being succesful – though I doubt he was meant to be succesful at any rate.


    regarding Frank Gegarty can you see how delving into the details, should the Southern electorate care to do so, will only reveal further questions. For example, who do we think was involved in pulling the trigger, and who was that person being paid by? It seems the finger is being directed at Scapp there, so in essence he was on the British government’s payroll for this murder.

    Presumably we still operate on the assumption that the gunman himself bears some responsibility over and above the person who gave him the green light? So you will agree that the gunman was a paid agent of the British state? And I’m sure you’ll agree that the British government should not have been paying murderers to murder?

    That minor quibble aside we know (or we’re told) that Frank was an IRA man and an informant. I wonder what his motivation was for being a state agent? Money perhaps, or possibly avoiding a prison cell for his own activities, do you know? At any rate the fact that the IRA murdered informants is and was well known.

    In summary we have an IRA man who for some reason (possibly selfish, possibly not) decided to risk his life by being a state agent, who was in fact murdered by another state agent. We don’t know how many people the murdered state agent murdered himself if any, or if indeed he lured any people himself while in the IRA.

    Not usually the subject of Unionist concern, murdered IRA men, but in this instance there’s political capital to be had so roll on, but beware, the British hand weighs heavily on this picture as they were paying both the victim, the triggerman, and according to some reports an agent going by the handle of the Fisherman.

  • Neil. are you questioning the Hegartys’ assessment that Martin is ‘a ruthless, deceitful man’? I previously published an article where he appears in the role of charmer. I see no reason why he can’t be both and more besides.

  • ..polarizing the nation..

    What is he blathering about? Aren’t all elections polarizing?

  • Neil

    Neil. are you questioning the Hegartys’ assessment that Martin is ‘a ruthless, deceitful man’?

    For what it’s worth (and that ain’t much) I’d say your view of the events in question and mine aren’t much different.

    I would suggest that the Hegarty’s assement isn’t news though. Much like with Gerry the public will make their own minds up, as they say the dogs in the street know the craic.

    And my point was simply that what seems straightforward in the Daily Mail (evil IRA man lures poor innocent IRA man to execution) turns out to be a little different when a minimum of two thirds of the actors appear to have been employed by the British state.

  • ranger1640

    Are wee Marty and denier Adams, more “west Brits” than they care to admit.

    Martin McGuinness: Not so Much a Peacemaker as Someone Who Stopped Making War
    It was that wise old French cynic Tallyrand who said that “treason is a matter of dates”. He should have known as he switched smoothly from being a supporter of French royalty to being a supporter of the Revolution to supporting Napolean and then back, at the end of his career, to being a royalist once more.

    For many today, terrorism is a matter of dates. What does it matter if Nelson Mandela was a key supporter of the ANC’s terrorist campaign in the past? What matters today is that he is a man of the peace which we all desire. Here at home, those currently championing Martin McGuinness’s candidacy for the presidency lay heavy emphasis on his role as a peacemaker in Northern Ireland.

    But perhaps Irish voters should pay less attention to McGuinness’s role in the peace process and more attention to British strategy in Northern Ireland over the last thirty years. The key elements of British strategy were no different from those practiced in the War of Independence in 1921. British policy back then was – according to historian Paul Bew – one of hitting the insurrection on the head using the terror of the Black and Tans while simultaneously offering its leaders “a bouquet” via underground negotiations.

    After making a hash of things in the 1970s – with crass political errors such as internment and Bloody Sunday – Britain embarked on two key strategies in the 1980s and 1990s. Terror was applied to the wider Sinn Féin support base by the UDA and UVF, partly steered by British agents within those organisations. Meanwhile the British Army targeted the IRA’s most hard-line members for killing.

    Senior IRA men who disliked the growing emphasis on Sinn Féin politics (such as Jim Lynagh, Seamus McIlwaine, Kieran Fleming and Dessie Grew) were killed by undercover units of the British Army, in often highly controversial circumstances.

    All the while the British intelligence services were cultivating covert contacts with the IRA. These contacts went back as far as the early 1970s when Michael Oatley (MI6) arrived in Dublin in the immediate wake of Bloody Sunday. It is notable that Oatley’s key contact within the Provisionals was Martin McGuinness.

    The British strategy of attacking IRA hardliners while seducing those elements of the IRA leadership open to peace had some strange consequences. The author of the authoritative “Secret History of the IRA”, Ed Moloney, has reported “I remember, as an example, one senior Special Branch man telling me how, on the eve of IRA Conventions, his men would issue orders for the arrest of troublemaking delegates so they wouldn’t be there to cause Adams and his allies any difficulties.”

    The fact that the British security apparatus was effectively working to support one wing of the Provisionals – as it heartily killed members of the other wing – aroused a lot of suspicion in an organisation that already pretty paranoid to begin with. Martin McGuinness was frequently the object of such suspicion. There have been several allegations – hotly denied by him – that he was a British agent.

    Supergrass Raymond Gilmour, former British intelligence operative Martin Ingram and the late Father Denis Faul have each separately accused McGuinness of being an informer. Former IRA Army Council member Brian Keenan wondered openly whether McGuinness had played a role in his own (Keenan’s) arrest near Banbridge in 1979.

    Father Faul specifically warned his school pupils against joining the IRA saying “it will sooner or later emerge that your commanding officer was a tout, and that his commanding officer was a tout too. And whilst you’re rotting away, they will be getting off scot-free.” Speaking off the record, a retired security source confirmed this fear when he told me that by the end of the Troubles an estimated 25-30% of the Provisional IRA’s members were informers.

    I do not know whether McGuinness was a British informer or not – I suspect that he wasn’t. But, at the very least, he was an unwitting tool of a British strategy to kill hardliners and cultivate more politically-minded moderates. Another beneficiary of this policy was Gerry Adams.

    Adams’s niece Áine Tyrell made allegations of child abuse against her father Liam Adams (and brother of Gerry) which are now the object of court hearings. Tyrell was frustrated in her dealings with the RUC. She said that officers “were more interested in recruiting members of the Adams family to act as informers than in helping her.”

    These allegations were first made in the 1980s but were only made public in recent years. If there was a war on and if Gerry Adams was the mortal enemy of the British, how come the British security forces sat on these explosive allegations for so long? And why did they also sit on the related accusations that Gerry Adams Senior (the father of Gerry and Liam Adams and previously a respected Republican veteran) had been a child abuser?

    For me, the evidence points clearly to the conclusion that, while their hardline colleagues were being gunned down, Adams and McGuinness were being protected and nurtured so that they could make the eventual peace. That is why I burst out laughing when I heard that Martin McGuinness had hit out at “west Brit” elements of the media. Having been a central tool of British policy for several decades, McGuinness throws an intemperate tantrum against “West Brits” as he runs for the presidency. Oh the irony of it all!

    McGuinness went onto say “I go forward on my record and my record as a peace-maker, which I think is unequalled anywhere.” That claim is absurd. For McGuinness sabotaged the 1973 Sunningdale settlement yet accepted a 1998 Good Friday Agreement that was little more than (in Seamus Mallon’s immortal phrase) “Sunningdale for slow learners”. McGuinness didn’t make peace: he just stopped making war. And he didn’t freely choose peace. It was forced upon him as a result of a successful British policy which gave oxygen to Provisional politicians while simultaneously asphyxiating Provisional militancy.

    Yet Sinn Féin now expects us to vote for “Martin the Peacemaker” as president. In the fictional world of “The Godfather”, would we expect Americans to vote for Michael Corleone simply because he executed a successful business strategy? “Kay, my father’s way of doing things is over, it’s finished. Even he knows that. I mean, in five years, the Corleone Family is going to be completely legitimate. Trust me.”

    The President should be a unifying national figure, not a divisive leftover of a vicious civil war marinated in so much moral compromise that it makes a complicated John le Carré plot look like a model of clarity. Today the best thing that superannuated Provo gunmen – such as Adams, McGuinness and Ferris – could do for their party would be to fade away and allow their party exert a fresh appeal with a new generation of leaders.

    While there was a strong argument in the 1990s that a vote for Sinn Féin was a vote for peace as it would turn the Provos towards politics and away from violence, the best thing we can do today is to withhold our votes from McGuinness so as to encourage a democratic renewal of Sinn Féin.



  • Greenflag

    We need a President who is preferably non political – non contrary and around whom no contentious past clings and who does not wear religion on his/her sleeve .

    All together now for Mary III a credible successor to Mary 1 (Robinson) , Mary II (McAleese) I give you our new President and ‘dark horse ‘ in the race Mary Davis .

    Mary Mary quite Uncontrary
    How does her campaign grow
    With party hacks baying
    And media preying
    It’ll be transfers all in a row
    Or without a row ;)?

  • Neil, the article appears in the Daily Mail but was written by Suzanne Breen.

    As you rightly point out, the alleged part Martin played isn’t news but, as I’ve already pointed out here on SOT, his slogan IMO was ill-chosen; it was double-edged: “Don’t take our word for it; see what others are saying about Martin”. He presented the Hegarty family and his detractors with an open goal.

    There’s lots of stuff the electorate don’t know. On the basis of risk assessment, I only post paramilitary-related material in fairly general terms. I have posted quite a lot of stuff over the years that has contradicted claims made by Ministers and I’ve shed some light on the ‘secret’ exchanges between UK and Ireland officials. The MSM has been quite poor when it comes to informing folks about governance, especially at the inter-state level.

  • Greenflag, I hope Mary Davis doesn’t bear too close a resemblance to the controversial and garrulous Mary McAleese.

  • Greenflag

    I’m of the opinion that both Mary’s did an excellent job given it’s limitations and if Mary Davis is elected and follows in their footsteps then I’d be happy enough with that . Probably not a good idea to have a President who could be too contentious and divisive for one reason or another -at this time .

    Here’s some of her stuff on the positive side and she’s run the New York Marathon and climbed Kilimanjaro

    And with her experience of working with the intellectually disabled she should be able to work well with both the present governments and oppositions on both sides of the border 😉

    Anyway it’ll be up to the voters or the 50% of them who bother to vote on the day ;(


  • Greenflag, I’m surprised you didn’t link to the Mary Davis website!