Some IRA killings could be said to be murder: McGuinness

Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness said some "accidental" killings of civilians by the IRA could be described as murder

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Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness has acknowledged that accidental killings by the IRA of civilians could be described as "murders".

In an interview with the Independent, he said the IRA "was involved in incidents which resulted in the accidental killing of innocent people".

Mr McGuinness added "the term used by the relatives of those people who were killed was that they were murdered".

He said he wouldn't disagree with that - a significant shift for Sinn Fein.

"I'm not going to disagree with their analysis of what happened to their loved ones," Mr McGuinness said.

Asked to clarify whether that meant the IRA carried out murders, the Irish presidential candidate replied "it's the same as saying that I accept that, in the circumstances where innocent people lost their lives, then it's quite legitimate for the term murder to be used".

This marks a shift in republican rhetoric when talking about IRA operations.

During the Troubles, when the IRA killed people who were neither members of the security forces, loyalist paramilitaries or others who they categorised as so-called "legitimate targets", Sinn Fein leaders tended to describe the deaths as regrettable "accidents" or "terrible mistakes".

They generally refused to condemn the IRA, but would acknowledge such attacks were "wrong".

Now with the media spotlight on Mr McGuinness's IRA past, the candidate has spoken of his sense of shame about attacks like the IRA Enniskillen bombing which killed 11 people attending a Remembrance Sunday service.

He also told a campaign rally that his heart goes out to the relatives of all those who lost their lives, including the families of British and Ulster Defence Regiment soldiers and Royal Ulster Constabulary police officers.

Mr McGuinness has accused the media of becoming obsessed with his IRA past, claiming that ordinary voters are not interested in the issue.

At the weekend he received support from Derry Presbyterian minister the Reverend David Latimer, who spoke at this year's Sinn Fein conference.

Mr Latimer told the BBC's Inside Politics programme that Mr McGuinness is a man on a journey, able to bring a community attached to the gun and bomb in the direction of democracy and peace.

The Presbyterian minister evoked the image of St Paul who he pointed out had probably been "officer commanding of an execution squad who stoned the first martyr" before his conversion to Christianity.

Mr Latimer applauded Mr McGuinness for indicating that, if elected, he is prepared to meet the Queen and other members of the Royal family.

The minister added that Sinn Fein deputy first ministers in Northern Ireland should also be willing to meet royalty.

'Banana republic'

However, in the Republic of Ireland, senior figures from the ruling Fine Gael party have renewed their attacks on Mr McGuinness.

Irish Environment Minister Phil Hogan claimed that if the Sinn Fein politician was elected it would scare off potential US investors, turning Ireland into a "banana republic".

Mr McGuinness described this claim as "absolutely ridiculous" given that he has just completed what he described as a "very successful meeting which I had attended with trade leaders in New York, aimed at attracting new investment for the creation of more jobs in Ireland".

In addition Fine Gael's chief whip Paul Kehoe used his Twitter account to question Mr McGuinness's promise that, if elected president, he will only take the average industrial wage and will use any surplus to provide jobs for six unemployed young people.

Mr Kehoe tweeted that he "wouldn't trust Martin McGuinness to take my dog for a walk" and asked "why would you need your salary when you have the proceeds of the Northern Bank at your disposal".

This reference to the £26.5m robbery at the Northern Bank in 2004, blamed by the police on the IRA, was described by the McGuinness campaign as "absolutely outrageous", "flippant" and "idiotic".

A spokesman for Mr McGuinness told the Irish Times that if Mr Kehoe had any evidence "about Martin McGuinness and the Northern Bank" he should bring it to the attention of the Irish police.

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