Martin McGuinness sparks war of words with 'RUC cabal' remarks on arrest of Gerry Adams
MARTIN McGuinness has deepened the political crisis sparked by the arrest of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams by claiming there is an "cabal" within the PSNI who are "settling old scores".
Mr McGuinness made the extraordinary claim that there are elements within the Northern Ireland police force who were trying to disrupt the peace process.
The divisive remarks came as Mr Adams prepared to spend his fourth night in custody while police in Northern Ireland question him over the murder of Jean McConville.
Mr McGuinness, the Deputy First Minister of the Northern Ireland Assembly, insisted the arrest was "inextricably linked" with the upcoming local and EU elections.
He was speaking at the unveiling of a mural of Gerry Adams in West Belfast, which depicted the Sinn Fein leader as "visionary" and "peacemaker".
In scenes reminiscent of the worst days of the Troubles, Mr McGuiness spoke to supporters surrounded by party members as the giant mural loomed in the background.
Mr McGuinness said Sinn Fein worked harder than any other party to bring about a new policing environment.
"Our negotiating strategy succeeded in achieving a new political arrangement but we always knew that there remained within the PSNI an embittered rump of the old RUC," he added.
"These people want to settle old scores and they want to do it whatever the political cost.
"No police force in the world is immune from criticism if it is acting in a politically biased and partisan fashion."
Mr McGuinness said the arrest of his party's leader was "evidence" that there was an element in the PSNI against the peace process.
Mr McGuinness said there was an attempt to charge Mr Adams with membership of the IRA in 1978 and his current detention was a "replay" of those events.
"That case was based on hearsay, gossip and newspaper articles and it failed then and it will fail now," he said to applause from onlookers.
Earlier in the day, Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald insisted she would not be taking reins of the party while Mr Adams remained in custody.
Speaking with Claire Byrne on RTE Radio, Ms McDonald repeated her claim that Mr Adams's arrest had been "politically contrived and politically malicious".
She also said that Mr Adams's arrest had raised a "question mark around all of the huge progress we have made over policing in the North".
"There are no special rules for Gerry Adams. But it is simply wrong for those in policing authorities to misuse their powers in a politically calculated way."
Mr Adams was taken into police custody on Wednesday night for questioning over the murder of Ms Jean McConville.
The PSNI successfully applied to extend Mr Adams's detention by a further 48 hours on Friday.
Ms McDonald said she was "beyond angry" at Adams's detention and had not spoken directly to him since Wednesday evening when he was on his way to the PSNI interview.
"Whatever gloss people try to put on this matter, the fact is that we are now on May 3 and there will be elections on May 23 and 24 in the south and North of Ireland and the president of Sinn Fein is in custody."
She also claimed that the foundation of his arrest was dubious and called for his release "without any further delay".
Ms McDonald also criticised Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore for "making glib commentaries".
"Instead of dismissing Sinn Fein, they should be looking very closely at all of this."