McGuinness speaks publicly about IRA role

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness today confirmed publicly for the first time that he was the IRA's second in command in Londonderry on Bloody Sunday.

Speaking in Belfast he said he had given a statement to the Bloody Sunday tribunal which also said that the IRA did not engage with the British Army on Bloody Sunday and that there were no IRA units in the area of the march.

Asked at a news conference if he had told the inquiry headed by Lord Saville that he was the IRA's No 2 in Londonderry on Bloody Sunday, he replied "yes".

He said also that he had told the Bloody Sunday inquiry that "the IRA did not engage with the British Army on Bloody Sunday.

"In fact I also will tell them there were no IRA units on the march, in the Rossville Flats area.

There were no IRA weapons in that area and that no IRA shots were fired at the British Army."

Mr McGuinness in his statement to the tribunal said: "I have given a very full and very frank and very honest account of what I was doing on Bloody Sunday."

He declined to give details of what had been in the draft statement sent to the tribunal, but did say he could dismiss as "rubbish and lie" claims from certain quarters that IRA men had been shot on Bloody Sunday and been buried in secret across the border in the Irish Republic.

He said: "It's rubbish, a total and absolute nonsense. If that had happened I would have known - the people of Derry would have known."

Mr McGuinness said he had decided to give evidence and face questioning at the tribunal being held in the Derry Guildhall because so many other witnesses had already been asked about what he was doing on that day.

He said there was a danger that the tribunal was "turning into the Martin McGuinness show" rather than an investigation into the killing of 14 people by paratroopers.

Mr McGuinness, speaking at a news conference at Sinn Fein headquarters in West Belfast, said he wanted to see the truth of what happened on Bloody Sunday coming out as much as anyone else.

He said: "The people who were killed were innocent people on a civil rights demonstration. They were massacred by the Parachute Regiment.

"The people of Derry know that but the world now needed to know."

He said if his contribution to the tribunal in any small way "contributes to the lifting of the veil and the conspiracy of silence of the last 30-odd years, then I think it is a very positive thing to do".

Asked if he would reveal when he had joined the IRA and when he had left the organisation, he side-stepped the question.

But he said the tribunal opened up the proposition that consideration might need to be given to some sort of truth tribunal being held in Northern Ireland.

He said if such a tribunal was held, he would expect not just republicans and nationalists but the British Government, British Army, British intelligence, SAS, RUC and prominent unionists would also step forward.

Mr McGuinness revealed he had been very pleased with the response of what he called "the more responsible elements in unionism" to the news that he was giving evidence to the tribunal.

He said it appeared to be seen as a positive contribution to the Bloody Sunday inquiry, but to the overall political process.

Questioned on whether other members of the IRA would be giving evidence to the tribunal, he said that would be for them to decide: "I am speaking for me."

He said during the course of the tribunal to date people had tried to use him against the families, against the injured and against the people of Derry. He said he was now standing with the people of the city.

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