Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness has strongly criticised British Secretary Peter Hain and former Policing Board vice chairman Denis Bradley over the establishment of a new group to ostensibly examine ways to deal with the past conflict.
The North’s Deputy First Minister said the decision to establish the new body was a unilateral move by Peter Hain “dressed up as consultation between Ian Paisley and myself”.
He was also critical of Mr Bradley, joint chairman of the group, who, failed to mention British state violence in the considerations.
Mr McGuinness pointed out that there was “no mention of British state forces in terms of parties that have to be included”.
His comments echoed those of party colleague and Mid-Ulster Assembly member Francie Molloy, who earlier said that Mr Bradley, “in the course of numerous interviews, stated that republicans and loyalists needed to engage with his new group”.
He said the former Policing Board vice-chairman had “repeatedly ignored the role of the British state in this conflict”.
“He has deliberately ignored the hundreds of people killed directly by the British state or through their surrogate paramilitary gangs.”
Speaking at Sinn Féin’s annual Wolfe Tone commemoration in Bodenstown, County Kildare, yesterday, Mr McGuinness said the move to establish the body was a “unilateral decision by Peter Hain dressed up as consultation” between DUP leader and First Minister Ian Paisley and himself.
He said that, “if you don’t look at the activities of British intelligence agencies, the RUC, the British Army and the NIO [the British government’s Northern Ireland Office]”, it would not work.
Insisting that this new group “has to be inclusive”, he said the power and role of the NIO had to be examined, along with all of the British intelligence agencies who were involved.
The Deputy First Minister said that “the key parties in all this are the victims’ groups”, some of whom he said had been critical of the new body. He said it had to be representative of all the people.
It was “particularly disappointing that, in the publicised comments that Denis Bradley made” at the launch of the new group, there was no mention of any other parties to the conflict except the IRA.
Mr McGuinness said he had great respect for some members of the new group, and he said everybody should co-operate to assist all those who had suffered in the conflict.
Mr Molloy said “there is a feeling amongst many that the fact that the British state appointed this group and will have the final say on any recommendations from it [ means] that there is an attempt by the British authorities to abdicate their responsibility for the conflict and their role in it”.
The key to dealing with the issue is ensuring that there is “no hierarchy of victims”, he said.
“This includes acknowledging the fact that the British State are protagonists in this conflict and not innocent onlookers. The British State directly or through their surrogate paramilitary gangs have been responsible for hundreds of deaths. That needs to be recognised and acknowledged if progress is to be made.
“Inevitably serious concerns do and will arise from the fact that the group is appointed by the British government and will report back to the British government which will have the final say on any recommendations.”