I never really disliked McGuinness, says IRA survivor

Ex-Garda sergeant Jim Cannon in 2016.
Ex-Garda sergeant Jim Cannon in 2016.

A ex-member of An Garda Siochana who narrowly survived an IRA attack said he nonetheless never truly disliked Martin McGuinness.

However, retired sergeant Jim Cannon acknowledged many pieces of hidden information are now beyond reach due to the Sinn Fein man’s death – including his knowledge of the attack against him.

Now aged 82, on October 16, 1976 he had been one of a team of five Garda who were lured to a rural house near Portarlington (in the centre of Ireland) by a false report of a crime.

They entered the building in the dark, but one of them – Michael Clerkin – stood an a huge IRA landmine, which killed him and destroyed the house.

Sgt Cannon was buried beneath rubble but escaped and – covered in injuries and with his clothes in rags – ran across fields to raise the alarm.

He told the News Letter on Thursday: “He [McGuinness] has a lot of secrets, and they’re gone now.

“The IRA knew who killed Michael Clerkin and injured the other four.”

He believed Mr McGuinness specifically would have known who was involved. No-one has ever been convicted in relation to it.

“I never was that bitter about it, for the simple reason that if I was bitter it would only militate against myself.”

He added: “I wasn’t that happy in years gone by about it. But I think I would have to give him credit for what he did in the peace process; no-one else I’d say could have brought the IRA with him the same as Martin McGuinness did.

“I never disliked him that much. I’d dislike his leader [Gerry Adams] a lot more.”

A man who gave his Christian name as William, 50 and from Coagh in east Tyrone, telephoned the News Letter on Thursday.

He said he was “speaking on behalf of the Coagh community”. He refused to give his surname, but said he was related to an unnamed IRA murder victim.

He estimated that his village has about 2,000 people in it, and said the IRA had committed eight murders there during the Troubles.

“These people who’d been killed were bus drivers, bin men, day to day workers. We had businessmen and lorry drivers [who died].

“And Mr McGuinness would have known all the killers that carried them out.

“He probably worked with them and could name them all.”

He said his village had “never recovered” from the trauma of the Troubles.

He believes Mr McGuinness was an “informer”, since his criminal record (published in full in Thursday’s News Letter, and largely made up of petty-style offences) showed he was “untouchable”.

He noted that people had been critical of Arlene Foster for the squander involved in the RHI programme, but added: “You think what money they [the Provisional IRA] have cost since 1970... the blowing up of those buildings and what it’s taken to replace them. The injured.”