McGuinness can’t be called a martyr: DUP MP

The banner was carried in an Easter Tuesday parade in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast
The banner was carried in an Easter Tuesday parade in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast

DUP MP Gregory Campbell has queried why a banner featuring the late Martin McGuinness has described him as an “Irish martyr”.

The banner, which has been on display a number of times since the late Sinn Fein politician’s recent death, carries the following text:

“Martin McGuinness, Irish Martyr

“He did not go to war, war came to him.

“Blessed be the peacemaker”.

It was carried on Tuesday at an Easter parade in Ardoyne.

Mr McGuinness, who was widely regarded as a senior IRA figure throughout most of the Troubles, later became deputy first minister and was credited by many for having played a key role in leading the terror group to pursue peaceful means.

He died in hospital last month, reportedly of a rare genetic disorder.

Mr Campbell, the East Londonderry MP, queried why Mr McGuinness was now being described as a martyr.

According to the English Oxford Living Dictionaries, a martyr is “a person who is killed because of their religious or other beliefs”, or “a person who displays or exaggerates their discomfort or distress in order to obtain sympathy”.

A third definition is “a constant sufferer from an ailment”.

Mr Campbell said: “As far as we know he died from a rare hereditary condition but I don’t know how that would make him an Irish martyr.”

He also challenged other assertions on the banner.

“As with most things that Sinn Fein do and most of the activities they engage in, they obviously don’t do irony. He did do war because he took up the gun.”

Mr Campbell said that Mr McGuinness had other options apart from joining the IRA “and he chose the gun, despite what the banner says”.

Regarding the banner description of him as a “peacemaker”, Mr Campbell added: “This is a blasphemous statement, apparently from the gospel of Matthew, and adds to the ironic rewriting attitude of Sinn Fein to recent modern history, never mind the history of the 60s, 70s and 80s.”

He referred back to Mr McGuinness’s headstone, which was unveiled in a recent ceremony attended by leading Sinn Fein figures.

“This described him as volunteer Martin McGuinness, but a volunteer here means an IRA murderer – they don’t work in a care shop.

“It means they strap people into their car and use them as human bombs, which happened in Londonderry when Martin McGuinness was second-in-command of the IRA in the city.

“To describe such a person as ‘a blessed peacemaker’ is beyond parody.

“He was not a peacemaker until the later years of his life, which we are all aware of, but we will not allow his latter years to obliterate his earlier life.”

Mr Campbell also objected to the fact that Mr McGuinness’s gravestone made reference to the IRA, but written in Irish.

Sinn Fein was invited to comment but did not do so.