Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has been accused of rewriting history after describing the IRA’s activities in Londonderry as “a very proud and honourable struggle”.
The IRA exploded a number of bombs in the city, as well as murdering scores of police officers, soldiers and civilians, including nine-year-old Gordon Gallagher with a booby trap device in 1973.
One of the most shocking murders was that of Londonderry man Patrick Gillespie who terrorists forced to drive a large explosive device to the Coshquin checkpoint in 1990. Mr Gillespie died along with five soldiers.
Mr McGuinness said at the Saville Inquiry that he was second-in-command of the IRA in Londonderry in 1972.
At the launch of a book of remembrance in Londonderry at the weekend, Mr McGuinness spoke of dead IRA members as “the real heroes of the struggle”.
“The struggle that was mounted in this city was a very proud struggle, a very honourable struggle,” Mr McGuinness said.
The Deputy First Minister went on to describe those IRA terrorists as having made an “amazing contribution and turned this city into a republican stronghold”.
East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell has accused Mr McGuinness of “appalling and despicable revisionism”.
“In recent months Martin McGuinness has been stepping up his attempts to portray himself as a peacemaker,” he said. “It should be apparent to all that it is preferable to have republicans supporting police officers as opposed to shooting them, but it doesn’t provide an excuse when reprehensible language is used.
“Much progress has been made from the days when the IRA murdered men, women and children in pursuit of an impossible goal, but just a few days ago the Deputy First Minister showed the uglier side of Sinn Fein and just how far he, and they, have yet to travel.”
Mr Campbell continued: “Among the hundreds of innocent victims the IRA murdered were a 14-year-old Roman Catholic child, a Protestant female census form collector and a Roman Catholic man who was turned into a human bomb.
“How were any of those cowardly actions ‘honourable’? This is precisely the type of language some of us have referred to as the attempt to try and rewrite the history of Northern Ireland.
“This appalling and despicable revisionism is an example of why we have not been able to bring closure on the past. Is the exodus of thousands of Protestants by the IRA from the west bank of Londonderry the means of turning it into a ‘republican stronghold’ as described by Mr McGuinness?”