Northern Ireland

Campbell says McGuinness's past should not be rewritten

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionCampbell says McGuinness's past should not be rewritten

Martin McGuinness contributed to peace, but the violent earlier part of his life should not be ignored, a leading DUP politician has said.

Gregory Campbell MP was speaking for the first time since the former first minister's death on Tuesday.

The former IRA leader was a "complicated picture", he said, and the past should not be re-written.

His funeral took place in Londonderry on Thursday.DUP leader Arlene Foster was clapped as she entered the church.

Mr Campbell told BBC News NI's The View programme that his party leader's attendance was a "matter of conscience".

"It was her choice. I don't criticise her for going, just as I wouldn't' criticise her for not going," he told The View's Mark Carruthers.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The service took place at St Columba's Church, Long Tower

'Self-imposed vow of silence'

The DUP MP for East Londonderry said he had purposely not spoken since Mr McGuinness's death - taking a "self-imposed vow of silence until after the funeral".

"No matter what I would think of the person who is deceased, the family and close friends should be allowed to grieve and to bury their loved one," he said.

In considering McGuinness' legacy, he said two aspects of his life needed to be considered.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Martin McGuinness died on Tuesday

"In the last 10 to 15 years, it is undoubtedly the case that he has done much to promote politics, peace and to try to make progress in Northern Ireland, I do recognise that," he said.

"But what we must not do is ignore the first 25 years of his life.

"We must not allow a re-writing of the past."

'Complicated picture'

Referring to one of Martin McGuinness's last interviews with the BBC Mr Campbell said: "When Martin McGuinness resigned as deputy first Minister and he was very ill, in his final interview he was asked did he regret any of the actions that he took part in he said: 'I regret none of it.'

"That for me is a very sad indictment of him. It further complicates the picture - if even after 20 years of peace and even after being lauded as a statesman and a peacemaker, he cannot say he regrets the violence and the murder."

"We must not lose sight of the fact that we only needed a peace process because of people like Martin McGuinness in the first place."

Mr Campbell alleged that when Martin McGuinness had been asked about individual instances in the past such as " the death of Patsy Gillespie, and the Claudy bombing" he had "said he knew nothing about it and he had participated in nothing".

Mr Campbell said he had never shaken hands with the IRA leader turned political peacemaker, which he said was "probably a deliberate move".

More on this story