Martin McGuinness quit ‘to go home to be with his family’

Martin McGuinness pictured on Monday as he tendered his resignation as deputy first minister
Martin McGuinness pictured on Monday as he tendered his resignation as deputy first minister

Martin McGuinness’s ill health and “devout” Catholic faith are more credible reasons than those offered for his resignation as deputy first minister (DFM), author and journalist Ed Moloney has claimed.

The veteran Sinn Fein figure effectively collapsed the Stormont Executive on Monday when he cut ties with his power-sharing partner, First Minister Arlene Foster.

Although the resignation followed a prolonged campaign for Mrs Foster to stand aside – while an investigation into the botched Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme took place – the letter also listed a number of other complaints and allegations.

It said: “The equality, mutual respect and all-Ireland approaches enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement have never been fully embraced by the DUP.

“Apart from the negative attitude to nationalism and to the Irish identity and culture, there has been a shameful disrespect towards many other sections of the community. Women, the LGBT community and ethnic minorities have all felt this prejudice. And for those who wish to live their lives through the medium of Irish, elements in the DUP have exhibited the most crude and crass bigotry.”

Mr McGuinness went on to say: “I have sought to maximise the potential of the institutions for forward progress in a society emerging from a bitter conflict.

“But the refusal of Arlene Foster to recognise the public anger or to exhibit any humility in the context of the RHI scandal is indicative of a deep-seated arrogance which is inflicting enormous damage on the Executive, the Assembly and the entire body politic.”

However, former Irish Times journalist and author Mr Moloney, probably the most highly regarded expert on the IRA, believes the undisclosed health condition affecting Mr McGuinness is ultimately responsible for the latest twist in the RHI saga.

“My thought was that this man wants to go home to be with his family,” he said.

“McGuinness is a devout Catholic ... so he would also want to make peace with his God. Both would take precedent over Arlene and her tricks.

“Call me cynical but I have had more than two decades of dealings with Martin McGuinness’s comrades and so my second thought, based on that toilsome experience, was that what we were seeing was another Provo bunco (swindle) game designed to make us believe the unbelievable.

“The unbelievable in this case is that the Provos would really do something to endanger the Good Friday institutions.”

Writing on his blogsite, thebrokenelbow.com, Mr Moloney said the Provos “gave up their guns” in return for seats around the Executive table at Stormont and that those, seats and the DFM position, are “all that the Provos have to show for ending their war”.

Mr Moloney, who was one of those behind the Boston College project Troubles archive, added: “It would be an admission that constitutional methods do not and can not work in the north of Ireland and an invitation to the gunmen to resume their grisly business.

“But there is another factor that I believe will prevent a crisis becoming a collapse – it is called Gerry Adams’ legacy.

“I do not believe for one moment that Gerry Adams would countenance a course of action that would seriously endanger an agreement and a set of institutions that will define his role in Irish history. We shall find out soon enough.”

Shortly after Mr McGuinness’s resignation, his fellow Sinn Fein MLA Barry McElduff tweeted: “We fight for equality. For respect. And for a united Ireland. That is why my comrade is resigning as deputy first minister this very day.”

Party president Gerry Adams issued a statement the same day calling the resignation “decisive action,” and claimed it was a “result of the DUP’s handling of the RHI scandal and attitude to power sharing”.

He went on to say: “In spite of the provocation, disrespect, and arrogance from the DUP and the failures of the British government to fulfil its responsibilities over that time, Martin McGuinness has always put the people and the political process first. This is in contrast to the DUP who have been acting to undermine equality and partnership.”

Meanwhile, former Garda agent within the IRA Sean O’Callaghan has described Martin McGuinness’s continued involvement as “absolutely crucial” to the Stormont institutions.

Mr O’Callaghan said the senior Sinn Fein figure as the only person “in the whole republican spectrum capable of pursuing a strategy which meant that you wanted the institutions to work, at least in the medium term, while also retaining control of your base,” he told the Irish Times.