US Martin McGuinness tribute ‘like hailing 9/11 hijack leader’

There has been an outpouring of condemnation aimed at the mayor of San Francisco after she praised the “military” prowess of Martin McGuinness.

Monday, 11th March 2019, 5:25 pm
Updated Monday, 11th March 2019, 6:30 pm
Martin McGuinness (left) follows the coffin of IRA man Charles English in Londonderry in 1984
Martin McGuinness (left) follows the coffin of IRA man Charles English in Londonderry in 1984

A senior unionist likened it to celebrating a ringleader of the 9/11 hijackings.

And DUP leader Arlene Foster has dispatched a letter to the mayor detailing some of the IRA’s atrocities and inviting her to visit Northern Ireland to see “the reality of IRA terrorism” for herself.

The wording on the ‘certificate of honour’ signed by mayor London Breed on behalf of her city’s roughly 800,000 residents states: “Martin’s courageous service in the military and as a negotiator helped cement and shape the Northern Ireland peace process and construct the Good Friday Agreement. His sacrifice and dedication to secure peace is not only an inspiration to us all, but represents San Francisco values at their best.”

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Lord Empey, a UUP negotiator of the 1998 Agreement, said the citation is “like saying Mohamed Atta, who flew his plane into the World Trade Centre should be commended for his military service”.

The UUP peer added: “His ‘courageous service in the military’ cost us 3,500 lives and decades of destruction. While there is no doubt he ultimately played a constructive role in terms of making Stormont work, you can’t obliterate the background.

“To try and airbrush out what he did and where he came from I think is disgusting.”

Mrs Foster (who herself escaped injury when the IRA blew up her school bus in 1988) said: “The reference to ‘courageous service in the military’ within this honour has caused a great deal of pain and offence to many people within Northern Ireland... These were bomb attacks which murdered pensioners and young children, a reality of IRA terrorism which is likely to be unkown to the mayor of San Francisco.”

Among many others also voicing outrage was former mayor of Londonderry, Mary Hamilton. She survived the IRA’s 1972 Claudy atrocity just outside Londonderry city which claimed nine lives, and brother-in-law George Hamilton, part-time UDR, was shot near the city that same year.

She told the Nolan Show: “I remember every day the Claudy bomb victims, blown to pieces at my feet, and my brother-in-law, shot in the back, and who left behind a four-year-old child and a wife – and to think Martin McGuinness is being honoured.”

The mayor’s office in San Francisco (seven hours behind the UK) could not be reached by phone at time of writing, and had not responded to emails. The US State Department, which handles foreign affairs, referred the News Letter back to the mayor’s office.

It is not clear how the presentation came about.

The mayor’s office website provides an email address for people “to request a Certificate of Honor, Proclamation, or greeting letter”, asking them supply “accomplishments or legacy of the individual” in question.

An image of the certificate was posted on Twitter by Ulster Gaelic Club San Francisco (@Ulster_GaelicSF) on Friday, saying it had been accepted on behalf of Mr McGuinness’ family.

It appears not to have come to wider attention until after Declan Kearney, Sinn Fein’s national chairman, also posted it on Sunday.


The book ‘Martin McGuinness: From Guns To Government’ lists McGuinness’ criminal rap sheet.

It is comprised mainly of petty things like obstruction during the mid-to-late ‘80s, but he has a couple of terror convictions before that in the RoI – namely IRA membership in 1973 (resulting in six months in jail) and another for membership in 1974 (leading to a 12 month sentence, plus a three month concurrent term for withholding information).

The book also quotes from a Londonderry court case, apparently dating to in 1973, concerning an IRA courier who was caught with an envelope destined for Mr McGuinness. It contained policemens’ addresses, car details, and their religion, plus a list of shops to be bombed and an order to kill two soldiers per week.