McGuinness traitor remark 'extraordinary' - Hugh Orde

Peter Robinson, Sir Hugh Orde and Martin McGuinness at a press conference on the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll in 2009
Image caption Mr McGuinness referred to dissident republicans as 'traitors to the island of Ireland'

Martin McGuinness' denunciation of dissident republicans as traitors has been described as "one of the most extraordinary experiences" of a 38-year policing career by a Sir Hugh Orde.

He held the post of chief constable from 2002 until 2009.

Mr McGuinness referred to dissident republicans as" traitors to the island of Ireland" after the 2009 murder of a police constable.

Stephen Carroll was gunned down by the Real IRA in Lurgan in March 2009.

He was the first police officer in Northern Ireland to be killed since the formation of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) in 2001.

Following the murder, Sir Hugh had discussed the idea of First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister McGuinness holding a press conference.

Mr McGuinness had said the chief constable should address the press as well.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Martin McGuinness served as Northern Ireland's deputy first minister for 10 years

"I went out and briefed the press and then Martin came up with that statement which had I not been so tired, I think I would have fallen over," Sir Hugh told BBC Talkback.

"He was clearly very angry and he clearly saw that the violent struggle had ended and the political way forward was the right way and that these people had nothing to do with modern republicanism and political influence and democracy."

Sir Hugh described his relationship with Mr McGuinness as "professional" but admitted they attended the same events several times without speaking.

"When I took over in 2002, Sinn Féin had not even joined policing... they wouldn't join policing," he said.

"I had stood opposite him in the White House during a St Patrick's Day event and they (republicans) would not speak to me.

"I remember on one occasion, probably 2003 when they (Sinn Féin) hadn't joined policing.

Image caption Sir Hugh said his first face-to-face meeting with Mr McGuinness happened at Downing Street

"Desmond Rea, the chair of the police board walked across the floor to say hello and they wouldn't acknowledge me at that point," he said.

"The world moved on hugely from there."

He said a face-to-face meeting did eventually happen.

"The first time I think was probably at No 10 (Downing Street) when I was asked to go and meet the (Sinn Féin) leadership," he said.

"It was a courteous meeting. I talked about policing, they talked about demilitarisation.

"The point was the meeting had taken place and we moved on from there."

During his time as chief constable, Sir Hugh was responsible for overseeing the reform of policing in Northern Ireland and winning the support of Catholics and Irish nationalists in the wake of 1998's Good Friday Agreement.

The PSNI replaced the Royal Ulster Constabulary in November 2001 following recommendations contained in the Patton Report on policing.

The Patten recommendations aimed to make the police service more welcoming to the Catholic community and more representative of Northern Ireland.

Sir Hugh said that over time, Mr McGuinness "became persuaded it was the right thing to do" for Sinn Féin to support policing.

Image caption Sir Hugh said he thought history would judge Mr McGuinness 'fairly'

"The officers on the ground persuaded the communities we were protecting them and being effective and he then engaged with us in a very professional and indeed positive way," he said.

"I met him many times and it was extraordinary as chief constable briefing the first minister and deputy first minister on policing and security issues mindful of his background."

The former chief constable said he always found Mr McGuiness easy to deal with.

"History will judge him fairly and therefore will remind those who are interested of his violent past and his transition from that violent past through the peace process to a highly effective politician," he said.

"Indeed, many senior civil servants told me what an effective minister he was. He knew how to work within government.

"He was a man of stature in his later years but I think they will provide a fair and balanced view."

Martin McGuinness died early on Tuesday in a Londonderry hospital with his family by his side. He was 66 years old.

He had been suffering from a rare heart condition. His funeral is to take place in his native Derry on Thursday.

More on this story