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Role of the late Martin McGuinness within republicanism highlighted in previously confidential files

THE role of the late Martin McGuinness within republicanism is highlighted in previously confidential files. The late Sinn Féin politician pictured with Gerry Adams in 1987. Picture by PA
Éamon Phoenix

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THE role within republicanism of the late Martin McGuinness is highlighted in previously confidential files.

The softer tone of statements from the leading Derry republican and future deputy first minister were raised by Irish officials at an Anglo-Irish meeting in Dublin on February 27 1990.

The meeting, minuted by the NIO, was attended by the Nicholas Fenn, British Ambassador to Ireland, NIO officials and an Irish team led by Dermot Gallagher of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The Irish officials were sceptical of British proposals on political development in the north with the DFA asking about the unionists' commitment in any future talks on political progress, adding: "The Irish side did not feel inclined to go overboard to accommodate (them)".

Turning to the position of Sinn Féin and the IRA, Mr Gallagher expressed great interest - according to the minutes - in a recent statement from Sinn Féin and, particularly, from Mr McGuinness.

"Were they worried about being left out of something? Did their disillusionment reflect the recent (Sinn Féin) Ard Fheis or developments in Eastern Europe," he said.

"Were they a late fruit of the SDLP/Sinn Féin talks? Was Adams disillusioned because of the political failure of Sinn Féin in the south? Why was McGuinness, of all people, taking the lead?"

An NIO official responded by saying "it was clear that the debate between the bullet and the ballot was not dying away".

Peter Robinson, Martin McGuinness, Bill Clinton and John Hume. Picture by Pacemaker

At this point Mr Gallagher asked the British officials if they were thinking of responding to Mr McGuinness's remarks, "for example by repeating Mr (Peter) Brooke’s (secretary of state) remarks about British 'neutrality' in NI".

The NIO representative replied cryptically that Mr Brooke's remarks on neutrality "had been in response to a particular need of Mr Hume".

The Irish official also asked his NIO colleagues if the British could not do the same in west Belfast.

The NIO official replied that "Derry was self-contained in a way that Belfast could not be and that local politicians in nationalist Derry were more effective than those in Belfast".

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