Martin McGuinness has been accused of “arrogance beyond description” for demanding the UK opens up its security files while he “deals” with allegations against him.
The former IRA commander was speaking last night on Sky News where he said he would “deal with” any allegations about his terrorist past if controversial new ‘truth and justice’ structures are established as outlined in the Fresh Start deal.
However, Mr McGuinness did not give any undertaking that he would disclose any information about himself.
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt described Mr McGuinness’s comments as “an insult”.
He added: “For Martin McGuinness to demand the British Government open up its files in their totality, in return for a promise that he will only talk about what he may or may not have done as an individual terrorist, is arrogance beyond description for a man reputed to be the republican movement’s chief negotiator.
“Remember what he told the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday – he said there were certain things he would not discuss ‘under any circumstances’. He is not offering to disclose who else he committed his acts of terrorism with, or help bring truth and acknowledgement to the vast majority of the IRA’s victims.
“He is simply making an outrageous demand of the British Government that he knows cannot be met.
“Every government has a legitimate right to withhold information on the grounds of national security, and to honour its duty to protect the lives of its citizens.
“Martin McGuinness knows that very well and it would assist the effort to deal with the past if he were to acknowledge that fact, rather than engage in outrageous and offensive demands.”
Sky News reported on Friday night that plans for a new Historical Investigations Unit and a ‘truth recovery process’ have ‘stalled’ amid claims that the release of some documents could compromise UK national security.
Mr McGuinness said: “What we need to see is, first of all, the agreements … go live because that will be the test for both the British Government and for Irish republicans as to whether or not they are willing to co-operate to satisfy the needs of victims.”
Asked if he was ready to tell the truth about what he did in the IRA and what he knows, Mr McGuinness did not say he would disclose any information about himself.
He said: “Well you see the mechanisms and structures that we have agreed be established make provision for families who have a grievance and who are requiring a resolution to their grievance to go forward to these tribunals.
“If, in any circumstance, any of that has a connection with myself, in relation to people levelling allegations or whatever, then I will deal with that. That’s not a difficulty for me whatsoever.”
TUV leader Jim Allister echoed Mr Nesbitt’s scepticism.
“This is far from an unequivocal commitment by McGuinness to tell the truth about his terrorist career,” he said.
“All he has said is that if allegations are made he will ‘deal with that’. And, of course, under the terrorist-friendly arrangements agreed at Stormont House he can do that in secret, even anonymously, and his victims kept in the dark about who has admitted what, and, all that with full immunity for anything said by the terrorist.
“So, once more, these are weasel words from IRA commander McGuinness.”
Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United said: “Do these comments mark a genuine departure from the stonewall response that Martin McGuinness provided at the Saville Inquiry? Is he now confirming that he is no longer compelled to stand by the IRA green book’s obligations of secrecy?
“We also challenge him to confirm that he has not received any privileged status, that he is not in receipt of a Royal Prerogative of Mercy or any other form of amnesty for activities for which he was directly or indirectly involved through his IRA membership.”
Victims’ campaigner Ann Travers said Mr McGuinness should not set any pre-conditions for telling the truth about his IRA past.
“If truly remorseful it will happen regardless of what legacy procedures are put in place,” she said. “I would like him to prove the ‘sceptical me’ wrong and step up to the plate.”
Victims’ campaigner Barrie Halliday added: “Martin McGuinness ‘dealing with allegations’ is nothing like republicans telling the truth. And yet he wants to hold the state to account for all its document archives? Republicans cannot even admit they carried out Kingsmills.”