McGuinness spoke to queen about Mountbatten loss

Mon, Jul 2, 2012, 01:00

MARTIN McGUINNESS told Queen Elizabeth that he recognised her family was directly affected by the Troubles in the IRA killing of Lord Louis Mountbatten, he disclosed at the weekend.

Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister and former IRA commander Mr McGuinness also linked speculation about a possible apology, from the former IRA leadership for the deaths and injuries it was responsible for, to a Sinn Féin project seeking reconciliation with unionists.

Mr McGuinness, in an RTÉ television interview with Miriam O’Callaghan on Saturday night, revealed how, during his private meeting with the queen and Prince Philip in the Lyric Theatre in Belfast on Wednesday, he spoke of the killing of Lord Mountbatten in Co Sligo in 1979.

He said this when Ms O’Callaghan pressed him on whether he felt any guilt or remorse for the loss of life and injuries caused by the IRA.

“There is nothing glamorous or glorious or great about war – war is absolutely terrible,” said Mr McGuinness.

“I regret the loss of every single life, including the loss of British soldiers and those who were close to the queen of England.”

He added, “I also head-on addressed this issue with the queen and Prince Philip when I said to them that I recognised that they too had lost a loved one. I did not shy away from the issue because I think these are things that have to be faced up to.”

Mr McGuinness, for protocol reasons, said he would not disclose her specific response. He did say, however, that, “She was absolutely understanding of the need for everybody to work together to ensure we don’t go back to the past so that we can continue to move forward – she was very gracious about it.”

On the issue of remorse or guilt, Mr McGuinness referred to the early part of the Troubles in his native Derry.

He said that the city had been “under occupation” by British soldiers and that, at the time, nationalists suffered discrimination, domination and injustice.

But when further pressed to say whether the campaign of IRA violence was worth it he replied, “You ask me the question, was it worth it? And all that happened, and all the loss of life, whether they were IRA volunteers, British soldiers, RUC (members), innocent civilians . . . how could I say it’s worth it? These were circumstances that were beyond my control as a 21-year-old.”

Mr McGuinness also commented about a report in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post – which Ms O’Callaghan made him aware of – which said the former IRA leadership was considering issuing an apology and expression of regret for the some 1,800 deaths and thousands of injuries it caused during the Troubles.

Mr McGuinness said the article could be referring to a project which he and senior Sinn Féin figures, such as its chairman Declan Kearney, were driving forward in an attempt to achieve reconciliation with unionists.

When asked about the possibility of an IRA apology, a Sinn Féin spokesman said yesterday that the newspaper report was “wrong”, adding: “The IRA left the stage in 2005. There is no IRA statement and there will be no IRA statement.”

Mr McGuinness said the meeting and handshake with the queen was part of that project, which is seeking to extend the “hand of friendship, peace and reconciliation” to unionists and to show the deep respect he and Sinn Féin held for them.

Mr McGuinness said he found the queen “very nice” but “I don’t think that surprises people” considering the way she conducted herself during her visit to the Republic last year, and her acknowledgement that all sides suffered in the conflict.

He said he did not accept Sinn Féin had misjudged the mood of the Irish people in not meeting the queen last year.

The way her visit went last year was a feature in Sinn Féin deciding that he would meet the queen last week, he added.