Former IRA men yesterday slammed the image of the “chief of staff of the IRA at the time Lord Mountbatten was killed” appearing at a state banquet at Windsor Castle.
Anthony McIntyre, a former blanketman and life prisoner, drew attention to what he called “the contrast between men dying on hunger strike, and wearing a blanket and him [Martin McGuinness] suited and booted filling themselves with stuffed quail – the abandonment of everything”.
He said: “I looked at that last night like it was Orwell’s Animal Farm; from pig to man, and man to pig, and you couldn’t tell the difference.”
However, he added: “I think anyone who was disgusted at last night, was disgusted before now. There is nothing really surprising in this.”
Mr McIntyre, who served 18 years in prison and was the lead researcher in the Boston project, claimed: “Martin McGuinness was chief-of-staff of the IRA when Lord Muntbatten was killed. And there is Michael D Higgins honouring a silent tribute to Lord Mountbatten.
“McGuinness isn’t going out there as a victorious general, he is going out as a compromised former chief of staff of a defeated army.”
Fellow former IRA man Gerard Hodgins said watching Martin McGuinness attend the Queen’s banquet “was a bit much to swallow, especially at a time when the British state is pursuing geriatric republican and loyalist foot-soldiers of the conflict”.
The former senior paramilitary figure added that “McGuinness masquerading as an IRA commander doesn’t impress many former soldiers of the IRA who firmly believe Martin was working for the Queen many, many years before his dinner invite”.
He said that “normalisation of relationships between Ireland and England is essential and the state visit of President Higgins will assist in this.
“Britain is our closest neighbour, we have a plethora of social, economic and cultural connections, built up over many years which cannot be ignored or wished away,” he said.
“Problems remain around the inequities and legacy of partition but I think we are mature enough to work through these on a political level between ourselves.”
Meanwhile former INLA member Tony O’Hara, whose brother Patsy – also a member of the organisation – died on hunger strike on May 21, 1981, said he was “disgusted at the meeting, but there is a reason for it”.
“There will be something behind the visit and what went on. There is always a deeper reason.”