McGuinness was never a benevolent peacemaker, says author

Kathryn Johnston with her late husband Liam Clarke
Kathryn Johnston with her late husband Liam Clarke

The co-author of the only biography on Martin McGuinness does not believe he ever became “a benevolent peacemaker” and says that his more recent confrontations with IRA victims were “chilling”.

Kathryn Johnston, who wrote a biography on Mr McGuinness with her late husband Liam Clarke, made the comments after Lord Tebbit claimed a prosecution service source contacted him in the 1990s to vent “frustration” at a decision not to prosecute Mr McGuinness in return for support for the peace process.

Asked to explain Mr McGuinness’s motivation for turning his back on violence, she said that for him, “the game was up”.

“I think Martin McGuinness (and the Army Council’s) prime motivation was that they realised the war could not be militarily won. Though I’m sure the evidence against him made the IRA and himself realise that the game was up for him.”

By 1985 he came across as “a peacemaker/politician” yet IRA atrocities continued until well into the 1990s, she said.

“In addition, the IRA used – particularly the British bombing campaign – as a kind of response to Major/Mayhew’s indications of deals made in various speeches.

“I don’t think he was ever a benevolent peacemaker, as some would suggest. I think he died as strong an Irish republican as he lived. The difference was that he had committed himself and the IRA to becoming ‘persuaders for peace’.

“It wasn’t a Pauline conversion, but a change of tactic. Some of his statements in his later years are quite chilling, especially when he was confronted by victims’ families during the Irish presidential campaign.”

Lord Tebbit, whose wife Margaret was left paralysed from the 1984 IRA bomb attack on the Tory conference, believes Mr McGuinness chose peace under duress.

“I have little doubt that McGuinness and his fellow terrorists realised that the IRA command structure had been fatally penetrated by British Intelligence and that the IRA was facing defeat,” he said. “He had to choose between that defeat and probable prosecution for his crimes, or seeking a peace deal and escape from prosecution.”

A Sinn Fein spokesperson said: “Martin McGuinness worked tirelessly to develop and promote the peace process. His dedication to peace and reconciliation has been recognised throughout Ireland and across the world.”

READ MORE: Tebbit: Martin McGuinness prosecution was dropped to keep peace talks going