24 October 2011

Cleric voices questions over McGuinness role

The Belfast News Letter in today’s edition [Monday 24 October 2011], publishes the following two-column photograph and four-column news report:

Cleric voices questions over McGuinness role

Canon Patrick Comerford

By Bryan Gray

A Church of Ireland clergyman has called into question the suitability of Martin McGuinness for the role of Irish president.

Speaking ahead of Thursday’s presidential vote in the Republic, Canon Patrick Comerford said he did not think it “appropriate” that the Sinn Fein man assume such a high office, given his IRA past.

Last weekend, the senior cleric criticised Mr McGuinness from the pulpit in Liverpool Cathedral, accusing him of showing “no mercy” to the victims of the 1993 Warrington bombing.

In his latest broadside aimed in the direction of the presidential hopeful, the Dublin-based lecturer in theology reaffirmed his opposition to the Mid Ulster MP running in the southern contest.

“I don’t think it is appropriate for somebody to stand for the office of president who has been chief-of-staff of the IRA when the office of president involves being commander-in-chief of the Irish Army,” Canon Comerford told the News Letter.

“I do not think it is appropriate that he should stand for president when the IRA has already murdered members of the Irish Army and Garda. Neither do I think it is appropriate for him to be talking about a truth and reconciliation commission when he himself has not apologised for the crimes of the IRA.

“This man is supposed to be president of the whole Republic and of all the people, and therefore needs to know that people here have been hurt [by the actions of the IRA].”

Referring to the Warrington bombing, the priest said the terrorist blast had particular resonance with him as the mother of one of the victims shared the Comerford surname.

In one of the worst atrocities of the Troubles, two young children – Tim Parry (12) and three-year-old Jonathan Ball – were killed when an IRA bomb exploded in the Cheshire town.

Referring to a meeting between the boys’ parents and Mr McGuinness in 2001, Canon Comerford said in his Liverpool address that the Sinn Fein man declined to say whether he had apologised on behalf of the IRA.

“The Warrington bombers never faced justice, and no mercy was shown to their victims by a man who is now a presidential candidate in the Republic of Ireland,” he said.

The former journalist, who is a regular visitor to Northern Ireland, insisted it was still not too late for Mr McGuinness to apologise for the Warrington attack.

However, he added: “His apologies have always been cached – they have never been full and unconditional.”

During the presidential campaign, Mr McGuinness said he felt ashamed when incidents, such as the Enniskillen bombing, were carried out in the name of Irish republicanism.

Asked if he recognised the leadership shown by the senior republican, Canon Comerford replied: “He has come a long way but so too did the late Gusty Spence, Peter Robinson and Ian Paisley.”

“Everybody has come a long way [in Northern Ireland]. Nobody can claim individual credit [for the peace process].”

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