'West Brit' gaffe forces McGuinness to backtrack
Published 21/09/2011 | 05:00
Sinn Fein presidential candidate Martin McGuinness last night had to backtrack on his criticism of those questioning his IRA past, who he branded "west Brit".
Mr McGuinness suffered his second slip-up of the presidential campaign after stumbling over his stance on the killing of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe. He had initially declined to say he condemned the killing by the IRA before doing a U-turn.
The former Northern Ireland deputy first minister followed that yesterday by hitting out at "west Brit" elements of the media who he claims are out to undermine his bid for the Aras.
Mr McGuinness said he expected some people would attempt to "muddy the waters" on his IRA past, but insisted he would put his faith in the voters.
However, several hours after making the statement and facing questions over his choice of words, Mr McGuinness backtracked saying it was an "off-the-cuff remark".
He also refused to comment on whether the term "west Brit" was unbecoming language for a possible future president and if he was willing to name his detractors, replying: "I'm not getting fixated about any of that."
Mr McGuinness made the original comment at the National Ploughing Championships in Co Kildare yesterday morning.
"There are west Brit elements in and around Dublin, some of them are attached to some sections of the media, others are attached to political parties," he told Newstalk.
"I say to all of them I go forward on my record, and my record as a peacemaker, I think, is unequalled anywhere," he added.
Mr McGuinness said he had never hidden his past and had joined the IRA as a young man in Derry.