Attack on McGuinness sparks walkout
Published 02/10/2011 | 05:00
The founding president of the University of Limerick, Dr Ed Walsh, launched a blistering attack on Sinn Fein presidential candidate Martin McGuinness, provoking a walkout by members of the audience at a Tipperary literary festival.
"Standing before the judges in The Hague answering questions related to war crimes and IRA activities would appear to be more fitting that standing before the Irish electorate seeking the highest office in the Republic," Dr Walsh told the audience which included the Mayor of North Tipperary, Councillor Micheal Lowry.
Speaking last Friday night, he said Mr McGuinness had "serious questions to answer regarding IRA activities".
Referring to the Hume/Adams peace process he said: "Hume facilitated the entry of the IRA/Sinn Fein into the peace process, in return for which they undertook to decommission IRA arms and disband the IRA and its Army Council. The former has been delivered, but there are questions about the latter," he said.
"While the IRA Army Council may be dormant, we have no reason to relax. As long as it remains in existence, so too, one must assume, does its strategy of using the 'Armalite and the Ballot Box' to achieve its goals." He said that the IRA's long-term objective was control, not of Belfast, but of Dublin.
"Sinn Fein has made excellent progress in recent years using the ballot box, but should they fail to get their way at some juncture, the real danger remains that they will reactivate the IRA."
Dr Walsh described Mr McGuinness as a "remarkably able and astute person", but "that did not make him a person one should trust. Hume was prepared to trust Adams. He knew McGuinness, but did not trust him; indeed he feared him. We who do not know him would be foolish not to do otherwise."
He said: "Whatever about McGuinness's direct involvement with acts classified as war crimes, he was in a position of authority within the IRA during most of the Northern conflict.
"No matter how reformed he may be, he cannot shirk legal and moral responsibility for the deeds of the organisation: the IRA's killing of 644 civilians, sadistic torture, kneecapping, kidnapping and the arbitrary destruction of the lives of its victims -- all of which are in clear contravention of the fourth Geneva Convention, as pointed out recently by Fintan O'Toole."
Dr Walsh said that the IRA had "incinerated people at La Mon, their victims included children and they had practised torture, including using kangaroo courts, all of which were war crimes".
He warned that "democracy was a fragile thing that was particularly vulnerable at times when nations were under stress. We have seen the consequences in Europe when countries are overtaken by people who don't believe in democracy but in guns".
Two people walked out during the speech, to which Dr Walsh observed: "He has some supporters here, too."