McGuinness should be tried if involved in ‘criminal activity’

TUV’s Allister says Sinn Féin leaders thought to be ‘untouchable’ in relation to the law

First Minister Peter Robinson (right) said of Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness yesterday: ‘If there is any evidence that he has been involved in criminal activity then he like any of the rest of us should be brought before the courts and tried.’ File Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

First Minister Peter Robinson (right) said of Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness yesterday: ‘If there is any evidence that he has been involved in criminal activity then he like any of the rest of us should be brought before the courts and tried.’ File Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

First Minister Peter Robinson has stated he has long held that “certain people” were “left alone” by the authorities in order to safeguard the political process.

He made his comments in the Northern Assembly yesterday when asked by Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister about recent allegations that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness ordered an IRA man to bring explosives to Britain in 1980.

Mr Allister was referring to a claim last week by Peter Rogers, who was convicted of the 1980 IRA murder of Det Garda Seamus Quaid, that Sinn Féin president Mr Adams and Deputy First Minister Mr McGuinness instructed him in 1980 to transport explosives to England for a bombing campaign. Sinn Féin said the allegations were untrue.

During question time in the Assembly, Mr Allister asked Mr Robinson what was the impact on the Stormont administration that Mr McGuinness “was identified by one of his IRA buddies as a director of terrorism”.

Mr Robinson said he did not believe that anyone would be surprised that Mr McGuinness was identified as a former IRA member. “Indeed it has been made no secret by the Deputy First Minister of his involvement in the IRA. He gave evidence to the Saville Inquiry (into Bloody Sunday) to that effect,” he said.

“If there is any evidence that he has been involved in criminal activity then he like any of the rest of us should be brought before the courts and tried,” he added.

Mr Allister then asked Mr Robinson about a “quite widespread view that under the aegis of the peace process” that Mr McGuinness and Mr Adams “were in some way thought to be untouchable in regard to criminal liability”.

“I have consistently indicated that I believe there are certain people who have been left alone because of their involvement with the political process that the (British) government did not want to disturb,” replied Mr Robinson.

The First Minister said he drew that to public attention recently in relation to the so-called “on-the-runs” - republicans who were given letters guaranteeing that they did not face prosecution for paramilitary offences - and to the use of the royal prerogative of mercy.

“No one should be less amenable (to possible criminal prosecution) because of their political involvement,” said Mr Robinson. “If anybody has evidence against any member of this house they should bring it to the authorities.”