Top Tory Tebbit withdraws McGuinness ‘shooting’ remark

Tebbit tells BBC remarks were not meant to be taken literally but added former IRA commander should be tried

Queen Elizabeth with  President Michael D Higgins (right) greet Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (left), and First Minister Peter Robinson (2nd left) and British  Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers. Photograph: Getty

Queen Elizabeth with President Michael D Higgins (right) greet Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (left), and First Minister Peter Robinson (2nd left) and British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers. Photograph: Getty

Fri, Apr 11, 2014, 13:13

Former Conservative party chairman Norman Tebbitt has withdrawn remarks he made about wishing to see Martin McGuinness shot by dissident republicans.

Lord Tebbitt said in a radio interview, following Mr McGuinness’s invitation to Windsor Castle by the queen on Tuesday: “There’s always the possibility that a member of the Real IRA will be so outraged by Mr McGuinness bowing to the queen that they might shoot him in the back for it. We can but hope.”

Asked by the BBC if he meant what he said, Lord Tebbit said: “That’s the way it is.”

However following a storm of protest, including a public rebuke by a Conservative cabinet minister, the former Chingford MP has given another interview and withdrawn his remarks.

He told BBC Radio Ulster “I don’t think I would advise anyone or entreat anybody to shoot Mr McGuinness - I would welcome it if he was brought to trial, of course.”

“When he has owned up to the crimes that were plotted and carried out by the IRA when he was a leader and could have said ‘no we must not do that’, when he has pleaded for forgiveness and expressed his repentance, then of course I would be very pleased to meet him and talk about those things,” he said.

Lord Tebbit said his wife Margaret were among 31 people seriously injured in the IRA bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton during the 1984 Tory conference.

His wife was paralysed in the explosion and she has suffered poor health since then, Lord Tebbitt told the programme.

“She is in a great deal of pain, she is extremely limited in what she can do and she is entirely dependent on people to look after her,” he said.

“We are not able to go on a holiday or anything of that kind, and she can scarcely go to visit anyone because there are very few places that are adequately equipped for her to be looked after. She lives a very restricted life - she is in prison.”

Mr McGuinness said the original comments were regrettable and Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said they illustrated the need for a wide-ranging process to deal with the legacy of the Troubles.

Northern secretary Theresa Villiers said Lord Tebbit’s original comments were “highly dangerous”.