Sinn Féin angered by FitzGerald’s visit to Derry in election year

McGuinness referred to taoiseach ‘shaking hands with a loyalist gunman’

Gerry Adams, Ruairí Ó Bradaigh and Martin McGuinness at Sinn Féin’s Wolfe Tone Commemoration at Bodenstown in 1986. Photograph: Peter Thursfield

Gerry Adams, Ruairí Ó Bradaigh and Martin McGuinness at Sinn Féin’s Wolfe Tone Commemoration at Bodenstown in 1986. Photograph: Peter Thursfield

 

A surprise pre-election visit to Derry by taoiseach Garret FitzGerald on April 30th 1985 was strongly criticised by Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness.

In a memo S G Hewitt of the Northern Ireland Office’s political affairs division noted Sinn Féin had described the visit as “a pro-SDLP election stunt while their representatives had made it clear that the representatives of the Dublin government were not welcome”in Northern Ireland.

“For Sinn Féin, Dr FitzGerald’s visit could not have come at a worse time as it coincided with the launch of their election manifesto in Belfast. On top of this, the taoiseach’s unequivocal remarks about his government’s support for constitutional Nationalism guaranteed an angry response from Sinn Féin,” he wrote.

Mr McGuinness had “hit out at the visit by referring to press photographs of Dr FitzGerald shaking hands with an RUC officer”,the official wrote.

Mr McGuinness had said “the image of SDLP supporter Garret FitzGerald shaking hands with a loyalist gunman . . . should stick in the minds of Nationalists as they go to the polls on May 15th [for the North’s local government elections],” the official wrote.