The Saville Report’s finding that the IRA was not responsible for the events of Bloody Sunday was “amazing,” according to Martin McGuinness.
The Deputy First Minister made the remarks as he addressed the Ógra Shinn Féin national congress which was held in the Gasyard Centre, Derry, as part of the Bloody Sunday commemoration weekend.
Mr McGuinness told an audience of around 200 young republicans that an important element of the Saville report that has not been recognised was the “total exoneration of the IRA.”
“The lies that went around the world was that the IRA wanted to engage with the British Army. It was amazing to hear Lord Saville make it clear that he did not hold the IRA responsible.
“There was a lot of emphasis placed on the lie that was peddled about the IRA by the British establishment but that was discredited by the evidence of people like myself and it is important to say that,” he said.
The Sinn Féin leader said that while the publication of the Saville report was “hugely significant” he added that he did not agree with all of the findings. “I fundamentally disagree with him on why the parachute regiment was sent to Derry.
“It is my view they were sent her to teach the people a lesson.
“Wilford was the fall guy but those responsible for what happened were much higher up the chain of command. Yes, responsibility rests with the parachute regiment, but it also rests with the broader British army and with Ted Heath.
“There was an unwillingness in the Saville report to lay the blame where it should be laid,” he said.
Turning to the elections which will be held in the coming months, both in the north and south, Mr McGuinness said they offered a “real opportunity” for a breakthrough for Sinn Féin.
Discussing the forthcoming general election in the Republic, Mr McGuinness said; “We can face into this election with an optimistic belief that we will see a breakthrough. It is the most important election in the south in recent years.
“There is a real opportunity coming up with this general election. Pearse Doherty’s election in Donegal was a watershed that has given a huge boost to Sinn Féin’s prospects.”
Mr McGuinness also said that young people have a major role to play in politics. “The campaign for the truth of Bloody Sunday involved thousands of people from this city. Young people were crucial to that campaign.
“The young people of Ireland realised it was a totemic issue and its great to see the new generation of republican here this year.
“On Bloody Sunday I was 21 years-old and I was not prepared to accept that the only way I would be treated as a first class citizen would be in death.
“I and other young people decided to stand up against the might of oppression and put our case forward.
“Young people have been involved from then on in campaigning against that might and that has led to a change in the mindset of northern nationalists to the point where I am now a minister at Stormont with four other Sinn Féin ministers.
“That is an indicator of change but more change is needed,” he said.