Adams under fire for graveside ‘freedom fighter’ address

Gerry Adams steps up to speak at Derry City Cemetery, in Londonderry, after the funeral service of Northern Ireland's former deputy first minister and ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 23, 2017. See PA story FUNERAL McGuinness. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Gerry Adams steps up to speak at Derry City Cemetery, in Londonderry, after the funeral service of Northern Ireland's former deputy first minister and ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 23, 2017. See PA story FUNERAL McGuinness. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire

A wide range of people have taken serious issue with Gerry Adams denying that Martin McGuinness was a terrorist and insisting that he was “a freedom fighter”.

In a graveside oration, the Sinn Fein president said Mr McGuinness would not be surprised at comments about him “in particular [from] those who suffered at the hands of the IRA”.

“But let me take issue with those in the editorial rooms or in their political ivory towers who denounce Martin McGuinness as a terrorist ... Martin McGuinness was not a terrorist. Martin McGuinness was a freedom fighter.”

But victims’ campaigner Anne Travers disagreed. “Members of the IRA were terrorists,” she said. “They instilled terror into a community ... evening and after-school activities for children were a no-no, for fear there would be bomb scares or even worse a terrorist attack.”

Colin Worton, whose brother was murdered by the IRA in the Kingsmills massacre, said: “A freedom fighter frees the innocent civilian people and doesn’t line them up against a minibus asking them ‘who’s the Catholic?’ before murdering the innocent Protestants,” he said.

Irish senator Mairia Cahill said that she would like Gerry Adams “to explain how the IRA murder of Joanne Mathers [in Londonderry] or the Enniskillen [bomb] families advanced his freedom cause?” However, she said she was “far more concerned” with Mr Adams urging people at the graveside: “If you want freedom, go out and take it” which she described as “inflammatory”.

Peace campaigner Trevor Ringland said: “There was nothing achieved through violence that could not have been achieved through peaceful means – that really should be the epitaph of Martin McGuinness.”

Kenny Donaldson, spokesman for Innocent Victims United, said this week had seen “revisionism of a life ... on a level previously unseen”. Acknowledging the grieving of the McGuinness family, he asked who the republican movement were fighting for freedom from in their murder of “Protestants, Roman Catholics and dissenter” over four decades? Republican terrorism was not part of the civil rights movement, he said, because all its equality-based demands were met by 1972.

Victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer asked if Mr Adams would also describe loyalist Billy Wright as a freedom fighter? “Bill Clinton says Marty fought because of the injustice to his people – does that mean we have a right to also lift the gun? The answer is no one has the right to kill in the name of any cause.”

PUP deputy leader John Kyle said the changes over the past 50 years “could have been achieved entirely through peaceful political action”. He added: “There was no need or justification for violence.”