martin McGuinness deflected questions about the murder of an Garda in Laois by the IRA by qouting one of his old Ulster Unionist adversary.
Challenged by the Leinster Express about IRA booby trap bomb in Garryhinch 35 years ago, the Sinn Fein candidate said that because someone had a past, did not mean they could not have a future. He said David Trimble had coined that phrase ten years ago, when he when he was accused by extreme unionists of going into Government with McGuinness.
“I think that’s the best way to deal with it,” he said, while visting Portlaoise on his presedential campaign trail.
Last weekend, the family of Garda Michael Clerkin questioned his suitability to run for the President. They said Mr McGuiness has a “nerve to run.”
On October 16, 1976 gardaí in Portarlington received a call to say that Fine Gael TD, Oliver J Flanagan was being held at an abandoned house.
Gda Clerkin and his colleague Gerry Bohan attended the scene with the sergeant-in-charge, Jim Cannon. There were joined by Tom Peters and Ben Thornton, two detectives from Portlaoise.
With the front door bolted shut, Gda Clerkin climbed in through a rear window of the house. But when he unlocked the door a bomb went off, killing him instantly and leaving his four colleagues badly injured.
In a newspaper over the weekend, Gda Clerkin’s brother-in-law, Paddy Duffy said the family felt that Mr McGuinness had “a nerve to even run.”
While, his brother Peter Clerkin, said the whole family was shattered by the repercussion of the bombing. He said the family had never got closure.
The Sinn Fein candidate said he had received a lot of support from members of the Defence Forces and Guards during his presedential campaign and that he had always unreservedly condemned any attack on Gardaí.
“My heart goes out to any loved one who has lost a family member in circumstances like that. I would never stand over or support any action like that, and I unreservedly condemn it,” he said.
Explaining how he was not ashamed of his past, Mr McGuinness said he had joined the IRA because it was the only way he could respond to the injustice, inequality and discrimmination in Derry at the time.
When asked if he should apologise to the victims and their families, he said the IRA had apologised for incidents they were involved in.
Waiting at the doors of the Portlaoise Leisure Centre, last Monday, was Mountmellick man, Andy Molloy who had served in Portlaoise Prison with Mr McGuinness.
He asked the presidential hopeful to sign a lollipop stick, which he said was the last piece for a tower he had built using the sticks.
Mr McGuinnes said he was getting a fantastic reception everywhere he went.
“Its phenomenally warm, I’ve had great support. My message is being well received by the people.”