McGuinness letter of resignation was steeped in sanctimony

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Martin McGuinness has travelled a long way since his days as an IRA commander.

Not only did he agree to share power at a Stormont parliament under the ultimate sovereignty of the UK, he has even at times seemed to be a moderate and pragmatic power at the top of Sinn Fein during previous crises such as over welfare reform.

But a self-righteous, hypocritical and objectionable side to the outgoing deputy first minister was on display yesterday.

His rambling resignation letter is steeped in sanctimony, accusing unionists of “shameful disrespect” towards gay people and ethnic minorities (this from a man who wanted police to question Pastor Jim McConnell for hate crimes after an anti Islamic sermon, when Mr McGuinness is not forthcoming about his past role in a group guilty of real hate crime).

He says that unionist disrespect extends to women (when the DUP is led by a woman, and when it was the IRA who tried to murder Britain’s first female prime minister).

Mr McGuinness then has the nerve to lecture successive British governments for “imposing austerity” when the Treasury has unstintingly helped rebuild a Province battered by a long IRA campaign.

In his focus on RHI, he even refers to “the squandering of public money” – laughable moralising from a spendthrift party that always demands more UK taxpayer funds, despite London’s willingness to overlook terror that cost incomparably more than RHI.

This newspaper was clear weeks ago, as the scale of RHI emerged, that there needed to be a robust inquiry into the affair that could compel documents and witnesses. We proved wrong those voices who seemed to think that a unionist newspaper might not uncover unionist failure.

But we were also clear that there was no need for Arlene Foster to step aside during any probe.

Sinn Fein seem to be forcing an election – so be it.

But if that is what it comes to, then let us be clear – it is not an election about RHI, it is an attempt by Sinn Fein, for its own ends, to get further concessions from unionism.

We trust these will not be forthcoming.