A CONSERVATIVE MP and former Army colonel has said he is horrified that Martin McGuinness was allowed anywhere near the Queen.
Bob Stewart, who entered Parliament two years ago after a glittering military career which saw him lead UN forces in Bosnia and serve six tours of duty in Northern Ireland, said that he could never forgive the IRA.
The MP for Bechenham in South East London said that when he sees the Deputy First Minister all he can think about is blood.
As an intelligence officer in the Cheshire Regiment in Londonderry in 1978, Mr Stewart operated in the same city as Mr McGuinness at a time when the Sinn Fein politician now claims he had left the IRA but when most historians believe he was a key IRA leadership figure.
Mr Stewart’s comments, made in an interview with Westminster’s House magazine, stand in contrast to those of the Conservative Secretary of State Owen Paterson who warmly welcomed last week’s first handshake between the Queen and Mr McGuinness.
“The idea of McGuinness going anywhere near Her Majesty the Queen, particularly when even the Queen has been touched by the exploits of the Provisional IRA, is anathema,” said Mr Stewart.
“I am not the right person to make peace. I admit that I have a problem, I have a plank in my eye on this matter, but all I can see when I see McGuinness is blood.
“So for me, don’t ask me to shake his hand. I am probably incapable of it. It is a fault on my part, I suspect. It is a problem for me more than anyone else, but that is the way I feel.”
The 62-year-old, who lost six soldiers from his company in the 1982 INLA Droppin Well bombing in Ballykelly and was one of the first to see the aftermath of that atrocity, said he is still fond of the Province.
“I adore Northern Ireland – I will be going back later in the year, yet again. And I have got lots of friends there.
“But the fact of the matter is that Northern Ireland to me is not a combat zone, I consider it to be part of the United Kingdom.”
At the weekend, Mr McGuinness and Sinn Fein chairman Declan Kearney played down suggestions that the IRA was planning a historic apology to all its victims, having in the past only apologised to “non combatants” who it murdered.
Mr Kearney claimed that the IRA had “left the stage” seven years ago and so could not issue any apology.
By sam mcbride Political Correspondent