Arlene Foster speaks of her ‘difficulties’ with Martin McGuinness

DUP leader says McGuinness described man who tried to kill her father as a “saint”

Arlene Foster said she would still work with Mr McGuiness as “the past is the past”. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Arlene Foster said she would still work with Mr McGuiness as “the past is the past”. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire


The North’s First Minister, Arlene Foster, has spoken of her difficulties with Martin McGuinness because he delivered a graveside oration for the IRA man she believes tried to murder her father.

In 1986 the current Deputy First Minister, Mr McGuinness, described Séamus McElwaine as a “saint” when compared with then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and US president Ronald Reagan.

He was speaking at the funeral of McElwaine, who was shot dead by the SAS in April 1986 as he was preparing to ambush a British army patrol near Roslea, Co Fermanagh.

He also said McElwaine was a “freedom fighter murdered by a British terrorist” and that he was a “highly intelligent volunteer”.

Family home

John Kelly

The late Mr Kelly was wounded but survived the attack. Ms Foster, as a second-level student, survived an IRA bomb attack on her school bus being driven by a UDR soldier.

Ms Foster said she found it “quite difficult” dealing with Mr McGuinness.

“If you talk to Martin McGuinness now, he will say that unionists aren’t the enemy, the enemy is poverty, the enemy is unemployment,” she told the BBC Spotlight programme broadcast last night.

“And that’s fine, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that he thought it appropriate to speak at Séamus McElwaine’s funeral – a man who had been responsible for murdering many people in Co Fermanagh,” she added.

Ms Foster said she would nonetheless work with Mr McGuinness because “the past is the past”.

“What I want to do is to build a future that everybody in Northern Ireland can ascribe to,” she said.

In response Mr McGuinness said “positive leadership” was required to assist reconciliation and dealing with the past.

“There will always be more than one narrative to any conflict.

“There is hurt on all sides and all of us – including the media – have a responsibility to recognise that if we are to consolidate peace and build genuine reconciliation.

“That is what I am committed to and I intend to stay positive in that work.

“People like myself, Arlene Foster and all politicians have a huge role to play by giving positive leadership in the work of reconciliation and coming to terms with the past,” added Mr McGuinness.