THE brother of a murdered garda says his "family's blood" is on the hands of Sinn Fein presidential election candidate Martin McGuinness.
Michael Hand, brother of Detective Garda Frank Hand, who was murdered by the IRA in a post office raid in Meath in 1984, also says the killing drove his parents to an early grave.
The Hand family yesterday broke years of silence on the murder as the presidential campaign entered a critical phase. They did so a day after Mr McGuinness was confronted by David Kelly, whose father Patrick Kelly, an Irish Army soldier, was shot dead by IRA men in a gun battle with the kidnappers of supermarket boss Don Tidey in 1983.
Michael Hand told the Irish Independent that the idea of Mr McGuinness, a former IRA chief of staff and member of its army council, as commander in chief of the Defence Forces was "an abhorrence".
"I find that impossible to accept," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, he has my family's blood on his hands."
Frank Hand was just 25 when he was gunned down while accompanying a cash delivery to a post office in Drumree, Co Meath in August 1984.
He had just married his wife, Breda, five weeks previously. She was pregnant at the time of his death and Frank Hand never saw his daughter, who is now aged 26 and works as a doctor.
"He was 25, he was five weeks married. He has a daughter now. He never saw her. He wasn't afforded the chance to go run for president," Michael Hand said.
"It opens up everything, the fact that McGuinness has entered the race here. And the emotions stirred up has really upset a lot of my family as well.
"Both my parents are dead now but to my mind, it resulted in their early death. It broke their hearts and it caused difficulty in my family. There were seven of us, he was the middle brother. It was very traumatic."
Mr Hand said the McGuinness campaign was built around "PR and using a big name".
"I accept that he was instrumental in bringing things about (with the peace process) but I think he has blood on his hands and I think he's an inappropriate candidate for the presidency of our country, of my country. And particularly for a country where my family gave blood for the country."
Mr McGuinness released a statement earlier this week in which he said: "As a republican leader I have never and would never stand over attacks on the gardai or the Defence Forces."
A spokeswoman for Mr McGuinness last night said he had nothing more to add to that statement.
However, Mr Hand described this as "hypocrisy".
"We all know he was involved and to say that he never would have is ridiculous. There are several different cases (of gardai), all of whom were shot in the line of duty."
Mr Hand said the key insult "is they never, ever apologised, and never would apologise. Even his words to David Kelly weren't an apology. They were an oblique contrition.
"I don't think a leopard changes his spots. I think there is too much hypocrisy, too much double speak and too much vagueness in his utterances.
"As far as I'm concerned, he has my family's blood on his hands. I have a great respect for the office of president.
"But I would find it very hard to respect an office held by someone like him. I feel it would demean the office.
"I can't accept how someone like that can lead the Army and get the loyalty of the Army and the police when his colleagues were the ones who shot down my brother in cold blood."
Three men were jailed for the murder of Frank Hand, but later released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. The Hand family opposed the early releases and Michael Hand said the man who fired the bullet which killed his brother was never caught.
"Basically, the guy who shot my brother, as far as I know, was never found. They put in accomplices all right, but the guy who pulled the trigger was never got. So McGuinness knows who he is, surely knows who he is, and he should out him."