IRA victim’s sister says ‘the truth died’ with Martin McGuinness

Relatives of those killed in group’s bombings respond to the republican’s death

The sister of an IRA bombing victim has claimed "the truth has died" with former Northern Ireland deputy first minister Martin McGuinness.

Following the death of the former IRA commander on Tuesday at the age of 66, Julie Hambleton said relatives of many of the IRA's victims were still waiting for "truth and justice".

She said: “[Mr McGuinness] was very opaque and selective with the truth.

“The truth has died [with him] and that’s the big problem.”


Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams led tributes to his life-long friend and party colleague, saying: "He was a passionate republican who worked tirelessly for peace and reconciliation and for the reunification of his country."

Politicians from Britain and Ireland also praised Mr McGuinness’s contribution to peace and reconciliation in the North.

Ms Hambleton, whose older sister Maxine was killed in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings, offered her condolences to Mr McGuinness’s family.

However, she said many relatives of IRA victims were still waiting for answers about what happened to their loved ones, including the Disappeared.

She said: “People are piling the praise on him but it isn’t valid.

“He didn’t come forward with the truth.”

Ms Hambleton, who leads the Justice4the21 campaign which last year won fresh inquests into the deaths of the victims of the Birmingham pub bombings, said she still hoped other former IRA members would speak about what happened during the Troubles.

She said: “I can but hope that lips will be looser, not just for our loved ones but for everybody’s sake - many of whom still after all these years have no body to bury.”

Poppy Day bombing

Her words were echoed by relatives of the victims of the Poppy Day bombing in Enniskillen in Co Fermanagh, who said Martin McGuinness had taken secrets about the bombing to his grave.

The November 1987 bomb exploded near the town’s war memorial ahead of a Remembrance Sunday ceremony for those killed while serving in the British military.

Eleven people, many of them old-age pensioners, were killed and 63 were injured in the IRA attack.

Another victim died 13 years later, having never woken from a coma.

Mr McGuinness was once accused in a TV documentary of knowing in advance about the bombing.

Margaret Veitch, whose parents William and Agnes Mullan were killed in the blast, said she would not gloat over his death.

“But I certainly won’t be sending any sympathy card because I got no sympathy card from them [the IRA],” she added.

“I am so sorry for all the innocent victims of Northern Ireland because we will never, never get the true story.

“Martin McGuinness chose to be a terrorist, he chose to go into government, he chose to take the bomb and bullet.

“My parents never had a choice - they died and we will never get justice.”

Stephen Gault, who witnessed his father Samuel (49) being killed in the attack, said he could not forgive Mr McGuinness for his terrorist past.

The then 18-year-old was also injured in the blast.

“My feelings are with the Enniskillen families,” said Mr Gault.

“Martin McGuinness has taken to the grave the truth and the answers that we need to be able to move forward. He knows who bombed Enniskillen.

“I will always remember Martin McGuinness as the terrorist he was. If he had been repentant my thoughts might have been slightly different. But he took to his grave proud that he served in the IRA.

“My fear is Martin McGuinness is going to be remembered as this great peacemaker similar to the way Nelson Mandela was remembered after his death. My fear is that his horrific past will not be mentioned.

“People might say I am unchristian that I have no sympathy for his family. It wasn’t Christian to send people out to murder innocent people.”

Mr McGuinnes had said allegations that he had prior knowledge of the Enniskillen bomb were “securocrat fantasy”.

Austin Stack

Meanwhile, Austin Stack, the son of an Irish prison officer murdered by the IRA, has urged people to remember Martin McGuinness’s “terrorist” past alongside his peacemaking.

Mr Stack, who has fought a public campaign to find the Provisional IRA gunmen who shot his father Brian Stack in 1983, said he felt reflections on Mr McGuinness’s life were being skewed by his influence on the peace process.

“People should remember the totality of his legacy,” he said.

“I think there are two very different legacies in relation to Martin McGuinness, let’s not just focus on the latter part.”

Mr Stack’s father was a chief prison officer in Portlaoise prison, where high- profile IRA members were jailed.

He was gunned down in Dublin and died 18 months later aged 47, after being left paralysed and brain-damaged.

The IRA did not admit responsibility until 2013, when Mr Stack’s sons, Austin and Oliver, were driven to a location in Northern Ireland with Gerry Adams for a secret meeting.

Mr Stack also said Mr McGuinness should have treated David Kelly, the son of another IRA victim, differently when he was challenged by him during Mr McGuinness’s 2011 Irish presidential election campaign.

Mr Kelly’s father Patrick was a private in the Irish Army.

He was shot dead without warning in December 1983 by an IRA murder-kidnap gang in Derrada Wood, Ballinamore, Co Leitrim, at the age of 36.

Mr Kelly said he confronted Mr McGuinness six years ago and asked for help in finding his father’s killers, but was told “to move on”.

Mr Stack said: “You have to bear in mind the suffering of people.

“Martin McGuinness never reconciled with victims. He reconciled with unionism but not with victims. The way he treated David Kelly - he could’ve said sorry.”

Shankill Road bombing

However, a man whose wife was one of 10 people killed by an IRA bomb in October 1993 has said he believes Martin McGuinness regretted all the murders carried out by the republican group.

Alan McBride’s wife Sharon died when the bomb went off in her father’s fish shop in the heart of the loyalist Shankill Road in Belfast.

Mr McBride, who is now employed by Wave, one of the main charities in Northern Ireland helping victims of the Troubles and working on peace and reconciliation, paid tribute to Mr McGuinness for his role in bringing peace to the region.

“I do believe that Martin McGuinness himself was a very genuine person.

“I do believe he was genuinely committed to the peace process. I do believe that he genuinely regretted all the deaths that happened.

“I do think he would regret the loss of life. That is what I choose to believe,” said Mr McBride.

“I think Martin McGuinness made a huge contribution to the peace process.”