McGuinness does U-turn to condemn McCabe killers
Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness had his first slip-up of the presidential campaign yesterday over his stance on the killing of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe.
Mr McGuinness also refused to go into his own IRA past -- a move that will ensure he will continue to be probed over his record during the Troubles.
Sinn Fein's chief negotiator lobbied for the four men, who admitted the manslaughter of Det Gda McCabe in 1996, to qualify for early release from jail under the Good Friday Agreement.
The North's deputy first minister initially declined yesterday to say he condemned the killing by an IRA gang.
But after being advised by Sinn Fein to clarify his answer, Mr McGuinness did a U-turn and later and told the Irish Independent he did "unreservedly condemn it".
Although, when asked originally he described Gda McCabe's death as a "terrible tragedy", he stopped short of condemning it.
"I fully understand the grief of the detective sergeant's family is something that cannot be underestimated. As President of Ireland, if I am honoured by the Irish people to be elected into that position, I, obviously, will have a huge responsibility to uphold all the institutions of the State."
The fallout from the shocking murder of Det Gda McCabe has continued to haunt the republican movement.
Sinn Fein figures have repeatedly struggled when asked if they condemn it.
The IRA Army Council initially denied involvement in the raid on the post office in Adare, Co Limerick, where Det Gda McCabe and his partner, Det Garda Ben O'Sullivan, were riddled with bullets. But the IRA later acknowledged its members were involved.
After the killing was originally denounced by the leadership of Sinn Fein, Mr McGuinness himself later argued for the early release of the killers under the terms of the Belfast Agreement.
Last night, Ann McCabe, the widow of Jerry McCabe declined to comment on Mr McGuinness's entry into the race.
"I'm not prepared to discuss that man at all. I have no comment to make," she said.
Mr McGuinness pointed to his contributions to the threat posed by those opposed to the peace process, who were involved in the killing of the PSNI constable Ronan Kerr.
"I have made absolutely clear my great thanks and appreciation to both the Garda Siochana and the PSNI in the invaluable work that they do on a consistent basis, bringing to heel those people who would not just destabilise the peace process but other elements who are involved in criminal activity.
"The Garda Siochana will have my 100pc support," he said.
But Mr McGuinness also refused to state exactly what positions he held in the IRA.
"I have never hidden my role in the IRA," he said on RTE's 'This Week' programme.
"If people want to examine my record, let them examine my record," he added.
Mr McGuinness said since he was announced as a candidate, he has received expressions of support from people who lost loved ones at the hands of IRA members.
He also said three unionist politicians wished him well when he arrived back to Belfast from a trade mission in the US yesterday.
"People know of my past and they also know of my deep commitment to peace and peace building," he said.
"I want to continue to reach out to those directly affected by the actions of republicans in the course of the conflict."
Mr McGuinness said the peace process would be strengthened by his involvement in the presidential election. He insisted the Northern Assembly and power-sharing government would not be destabilised by his entry into the election race.
Today, Mr McGuinness will be in Stormont to temporarily stand down as deputy first minister. He will be replaced by party colleague John O'Dowd.