'When the camera was pointed at McGuinness a shutter came down in his eyes'

Liam Clarke and Kathryn Johnston were co-authors of a biography on Martin McGuinness, published in 2001. Picture by Alan Lewis
Gareth McKeown

The co-author of a biography of Martin McGuinness' life has said she fears secrets of the past may have gone with him to grave.

Kathryn Johnston and her late husband, former political journalist Liam Clarke, published the book: 'Martin McGuinness: From Guns to Government' in 2001.

The biography charts the Derry man's journey from IRA member to elected representative, but did not receive the former deputy first minister's approval, who refused interviews.

Following its publication the authors were arrested by the PSNI in relation to leaked documents included in the book, but were never formally charged.

Mrs Johnston described Mr McGuinness as a "crafty military strategist and talented politician" and said no other person could have brought about the IRA ceasefire.

She first met him in 1992, on the 20th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. During a broadcasting ban she spoke to Bishop of Derry Edward Daly and Martin McGuinness at length.

The Martin McGuinness biography

"He was warm and he was approachable. Whenever you were talking to him you saw this warm, charismatic guy, he'd say 'can I cook you a breakfast' or something like that, but as soon as a camera pointed towards him or a tape recorder switched on there was a like a shutter went down on his eyes. It was quite marked and I'm not the only person that noticed that," she said.

The author and former journalist said Mr McGuinness' insistence in a 1992 interview that the IRA had "done things in the past which were wrong", but "I I haven’t done anything that I am ashamed of" did not sit well with many victims of the IRA.

"The families of victims would disagree with that. Rose Hegarty and the family of Joanne Mathers, so many of the victims have questions left unanswered and we can only hope the secrets haven't gone with him to the grave, but I fear they may have," she said.

While many have spoken of Martin McGuinness' 30 year journey from IRA leader to statesman, Mrs Johnston believes the man himself did not undergo a Damascene conversion.

Liam Clarke and Kathryn Johnston. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

"I think his journey didn't take him that far, I think above all McGuinness is a pragmatist and it was the times that changed rather than McGuinness. I think he probably died as he lived. He was the same Irish republican when he died as when he was walking the streets of the Bogside in the late 60s, early 70s. Having said that I don't think there's a single other person who could have brought the IRA from guns to government, it's a singular achievement," she added.

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