McGuinness ‘now a man of peace’ - says UDA leader

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The leader of a loyalist paramilitary group has described Martin McGuinness as a “man of peace”.

The UDA’s Jackie McDonald said unionists would be hypocritical to oppose the Derry man becoming Irish president.

McDonald, who has forged a relationship with the current president Mary McAleese and her husband Martin, said unionists who accepted Mr McGuinness as Deputy First Minister would be wrong to oppose him being a candidate.

He added that, while he thought Mr McGuinness had “massaged the truth” about his IRA past, he was now “a man of peace”.

Since announcing his candidacy last weekend, Mr McGuinness has faced calls on both sides of the border for him to make more admissions about his past role in the IRA.

Speaking on radio, Mr McDonald said that, while he understood the concerns of victims, such demands were misguided and it would be impractical for Mr McGuinness to “tell the truth” in isolation.

He added: “If they are talking about telling the truth, will the British government tell the truth? Will everybody tell the truth?

“He’s isolated himself by nominating himself for president but, in the overall picture, if we talk about truth, we have to talk about everybody telling the truth, not bits and pieces of the truth.

“I am not so much interested in what he did - there will be people more concerned about his past or his present or his future, but I would rather Martin McGuinness be doing what he is doing now.”

Mr McDonald described Mr. McGuinness as a “very plausible fella”.

“I have met him a few times and we’ve talked about working class issues,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with him in his present position.

“Regarding him being in the Aras, I don’t know if he could do the things that either Mary (Robinson or McAleese) has done in the last 21 years.”