Martin McGuinness ‘embraced peace to save his own skin’

Debbie Carson as a baby in the arms of her father Herbie Kernaghan, who was murdered on October 15,1979
Debbie Carson as a baby in the arms of her father Herbie Kernaghan, who was murdered on October 15,1979

A woman whose father was shot dead in front of schoolchildren in their playground believes Martin McGuinness only turned to peace when he believed he was likely to be arrested for murder.

Debbie Carson’s father Herbie Kernaghan, a delivery driver and part-time UDR member, was murdered on October 15, 1979.

Debbie Carson believes Martin McGuinness pursued a peaceful path when he thought he was going to be arrested for murder

Debbie Carson believes Martin McGuinness pursued a peaceful path when he thought he was going to be arrested for murder

The 36-year-old father-of-four was killed after the IRA took the staff and pupils of St Tierney’s Primary School in Roslea, Co Fermanagh, hostage to ambush him as he delivered their vegetables.

Twenty of the school’s 150 pupils were playing in the school yard when his truck arrived. The IRA shot him 17 times in his own cab.

One 11-year-old said at the time: “The man who was shot smiled at me when he drove into the school. I saw a man with a hood and a rifle go over to the lorry and fire into the cab.”

Debbie was only 10 when her mother’s cousin arrived at her school to break the news.

“It was such a shock,” said Debbie, who now lives at Maguiresbridge.

Her mother was 30 weeks pregnant and her third brother was born two weeks later.

“We used to take it in turns to sleep with mum, listening to her crying every night.”

She now feels her mum was “remarkable” for bringing up four children while holding down a job and dealing with her own grief.

There also remain wonderful memories of her father.

“My dad was a character. He was so jokey, always laughing. He enjoyed darts and he was a fruit and veg delivery man, all over Fermanagh.”

Nobody was ever charged with his murder.

She found it difficult to accept the plaudits given to Mr McGuinness after his recent death.

“It was hard to see this man being portrayed as a peacemaker, great statesman, wonderful human being,” she said, especially in light of “all the things he had been linked to”.

In her view, “he had only turned to peace when it had become known to him that maybe that he was going to be arrested”.

She believes he was under investigation for murder when he agreed to support a peaceful future.

“It was very convenient for him to turn to peace to save his own skin.”

She does not dispute claims the former IRA commander played a key role in leading the IRA to peace. However, she said he “never apologised for what he did in the past”.

“He could have helped a lot of people come to terms with a lot of things, but he didn’t.”

Her daughter, Rebecca, took part in the Common Bond Global Terrorism and Peace Conference in 2013 in Philadelphia, for young people affected by terrorism.

“We are looking forward, but we don’t want to forget the past either,” she added.