Martin McGuinness has tremendous duty to tell whole story: biographer

Kathryn Johnston and her late husband Liam Clarke. Together they wrote the only biography to date about Martin McGuinness
Kathryn Johnston and her late husband Liam Clarke. Together they wrote the only biography to date about Martin McGuinness

The only author to have written a biography of Martin McGuinness says that “history demands” that he now gives a full account of his life.

Kathryn Johnston co-authored the book ‘Martin McGuinness, From Guns to Government’ with her husband, the renowned late political journalist Liam Clarke, in 2001.

She was speaking after deputy first minister and former IRA commander Martin McGuinness announced his retirement from politics due to ill health.

In an interview last week with UTV she noted Mr McGuinness was “really proud” of being the longest serving Assembly minister.

“He was really really proud, I mean that is obviously what he sees as his legacy,” she said.

But at the same time there is “absolutely no doubt” that he has a duty to tell his full story.

For years he complained that his views had been censored yet when she asked to interview him for her book he replied with a letter from his solicitor Barra McGrory to say he would not cooperate.

“I think there should be a process set in train where Martin McGuinness could give an account of anything he personally was involved in and some kind of overview of the IRA and the political process,” she said.

“And it is not just for the victims – it is for all of us. Our children’s children deserve to know what happened.

“Really, there is a tremendous duty on him to do that and I think he would really prove to be the man of courage and ambition that he has become through the Assembly.”

Nobody expects him to face prosecution, she added.

Kathryn acknowledges the positive role he has played. “It is hard to see someone [else] who could have brought the IRA along so far.” And she echoes Ian Paisley’s comments last week that he played a critical role in the peace process.

“He did indeed. Apart from the critical role behind the scenes, when you look at his relationship with Ian Paisley [Senior] it is a tribute to both of them that they worked so hard together.”

But his debt to victims is “very important – he is one of the few people that could give particulars”.

In August Mr McGuinness told Sky News he would “deal with” any allegations about his terrorist past if new ‘truth and justice’ structures are established.

But Kathryn said his comments reveal he was not offering the same level of disclosure as he was demanding from the UK.

“That is exactly it,” she said. “I thought he cheapened himself making that kind of such a limited offer.”

Some of his secret talks with the UK in the 1970s only became known through the release of state papers; likewise, an account of his story could be released after his life.

“Even the British release state papers, albeit that some of them are not released for about 100 years,” she said.