Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, has hit back at comments made by First Minister, Peter Robinson, during Assembly Question Time today.
Mr. McGuinness, described the comments made by Mr. Robinson as “retreating into the past” and suggested that the First Minister was guilty of electioneering.
Mr. Robinson’s comments come weeks after Mr. McGuinness alleged the DUP leader and other unionist politicians had been reluctant to link the UVF to attacks against both foreign nationals and the offices of the Alliance party in his East Belfast constituency.
“During my time as deputy First Minister, I have tried to avoid recriminating about the past. In response to Peter Robinson’s comments today I could raise many issues around unionist politicians’ involvement in the Ulster Workers strike, collusion with loyalist paramilitaries and the setting up and import of arms by Ulster Resistance.
“But in retreating into the past, Peter Robinson misses entirely the point. When I talk about a failure of leadership and political cowardice, I am talking about the here and now. I am talking about the failure of unionist leaders to stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of us in denouncing the squalid sectarian and racist violence of the UVF. The failure to name and condemn the UVF. The attempts to divert attention and implicitly excuse the UVF in a quest for extreme loyalist votes,” said Mr. McGuinness.
Mr. McGuinness went on to accuse the First Minister of failing to condemn the attacks in East Belfast in the same way he condemned attacks by dissident republicans right across the North of Ireland.
“I have stood shoulder to shoulder with unionist leaders in condemning the activities of so called dissident republicans. We have not seen the same united approach in response to UVF-orchestrated violence against isolated members of our ethnic minority communities, against the small nationalist community of the Short Strand, against the PSNI during the flag protests or against Alliance party offices.”