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Friday 18 January 2019

Victims of IRA violence react to the death of Martin McGuinness

Martin McGuinness Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Martin McGuinness Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Jean McConville. PA photo Newsdesk Newsdesk

The relatives of the victims of IRA violence have had mixed reactions to the death of Martin McGuinness.

The sister of a woman killed by the paramilitary group tweeted a list of atrocities and other victims.

Ann Travers' sister Mary was gunned down and her judge father, Tom Travers, badly injured when they were ambushed by an IRA gang as they emerged from church in Belfast in April 1984.

Ann Travers has since campaigned for victims' rights.

Johnathan Ball, left, and Tim Parry died in an IRA bomb attack in Warrington in 1993
Johnathan Ball, left, and Tim Parry died in an IRA bomb attack in Warrington in 1993

She tweeted a picture of her sister and father, and wrote: "Enniskillen Families, Claudy families, Hegarty family, Gillespie family, Maher family, I'm so sorry you never got the answers you deserved."

Mr McGuinness spoke out six years ago after a Sinn Fein member involved in the murder of Mary Travers was appointed to an influential adviser role at Stormont.

He said the killing had been "absolutely wrong" but added the adviser, Mary McArdle, would not be sacked from the role.

Speaking at the time he said: "There is controversy now because Ann obviously feels very hurt and I respect the fact that she feels the way she feels but if we were to apply the rule that people who were part of the conflict can't be part of building a better future then Nelson Mandela would never have been president of South Africa."

Alan McBride (whose wife and father in law where killed in the Shankill Bombing) speaking at a wreath laying ceremony in Talbot Street Dublin to mark the 42nd anniversary of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Alan McBride (whose wife and father in law where killed in the Shankill Bombing) speaking at a wreath laying ceremony in Talbot Street Dublin to mark the 42nd anniversary of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Martin McGuinness Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

This morning Colin Parry whose 12-year-old son, Tim, was killed by an IRA bomb in Warrington in 1993 also spoke about the relationship he developed with the former IRA commander.

Mr Parry said he first met Mr McGuinness in 2002 when he came to Warrington for an engagement as Minister for Education.

"I don't forgive Martin, I don't forgive the IRA, neither does my wife and neither do my children," he told the BBC.

"Setting aside forgiveness I found Martin McGuinness an easy man to talk to and a man I found sincere in his desire for peace and maintaining the Peace Process at any cost.

"He deserves great credit for his most recent life."

Meanwhile, former British MP Lord Tebbit, who was injured in the 1984 Brighton bombing was highly critical of the late leader.

Martin McGuiness (left) meets Colin Parry
Martin McGuiness (left) meets Colin Parry

"The world is now a sweeter and cleaner place," Lord Tebbit told Good Morning Britain.

"He was a coward. The reason he suddenly became a man of peace, was that he was desperately afraid that he was going to be arrested and charged with a number of murders."

Michael McConville, the son of Jean McConville, also reflected on Mr McgUinness's death 27 years after his mother became one of "the disappeared".

"I'm sad for his amily, I don't like seeing anybody die... but on the other hand Martin McGuinness did try to do an awful lot for the troubles with Northern Ireland I will say that about him," he said on BBC radio.

"I think he tried his best with the politics over here, I will say that about the man."

The younger sister of an IRA bombing victim has claimed "the truth has died" with Northern Ireland former deputy first minister Martin McGuinness.

Julie Hambleton said relatives of many of the terrorist group's victims were still waiting for "truth and justice", following the death of the ex-IRA commander.

She claimed: "He was very opaque and selective with the truth.

"With him the truth has died and that's the big problem."

Ms Hambleton, whose older sister Maxine was killed in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings, offered her condolences to his family.

But she said many relatives of IRA victims were still waiting for answers about what happened to loved ones, including The Disappeared.

She added: "People are piling the praise on him but it isn't valid.

"He didn't come forward with the truth."

Ms Hambleton, who leads the Justice4the21 campaign which last year won fresh inquests into the deaths of the pub bombings victims, said she still hoped other former IRA members would speak about what happened during The Troubles.

She said: "I can but hope that lips will be looser, not just for our loved ones but for everybody's sake - many of whom still after all these years have no body to bury."

Victims' campaigner Alan McBride - whose wife was killed in an IRA bomb on Belfast's Shankill Road - has said Northern Ireland owes a debt of gratitude to the late parliamentarian.

Mr McBride told BBC Radio Ulster that his "fingerprints are all over the Troubles but they are also all over the peace process".

Stephen Gault, who saw his father Samuel (49) killed by an IRA bomb in Enniskillen in November 1987. The then 18-year-old was also injured in the blast.

The IRA bomb exploded near the town's war memorial during a Remembrance Sunday ceremony, which was being held to commemorate British military war dead. Eleven people, many of them old-age pensioners, were killed and 63 were injured.

Speaking about the death of Mr McGuinness - who was once accused in a TV documentary of knowing in advance about the bombing - Mr Gault said he would always remember him as a terrorist, not a peacemaker.

"My feelings are with the Enniskillen families. Martin McGuinness has taken to the grave the truth and the answers that we need to be able to move forward. He knows who bombed Enniskillen. Initially my thoughts and prayers go out to the Enniskillen victims," said Mr Gault.

He added: "I will always remember Martin McGuinness as the terrorist he was. If he had been repentant my thoughts might have been slightly different. But he took to his grave proud that he served in the IRA. There was no remorse or repentance from him even up to his death."

Mr Gault said he feared that Mr McGuinness would only be remembered as a peacemaker.

"My fear is Martin McGuinness is going to be remembered as this great peacemaker similar to the way Nelson Mandela was remembered after his death. My fear is that his horrific past will not be mentioned.

"People might say I am unchristian that I have no sympathy for his family. But it wasn't Christian to send people out to murder innocent people.

"Did the McGuinness family feel any sympathy for the Gault family when my father was cruelly and brutally murdered at the age of 49 by an IRA bomb?

"I have heard all this talk about how Martin McGuinness was only 66. My father was only 49 when he was murdered. He wasn't even 50. He was a very young man."

Former Ulster Unionist MP, Lord Kilclooney, said he "despairs" when he looks for a similar leader to Martin McGuinness in Sinn Féin.

 "As a victim of IRA assassination attempt when I was Minister at Home Affairs in Northern Ireland in 1972, I obviously watched the political progress of Martin McGuinness closely. He had an evil past but became a peacemaker - of that I have no doubt," he told the BBC.

"I extend my condolences to his family circle at this time but I look in despair at Sinn Féin for someone with the same leadership qualities as Martin McGuinness."

Additional reporting by Press Association

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