McGuinness renews challenge to unionists

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has renewed his challenge to unionist leaders to stand up to loyalist elements.

Mr McGuinness angered unionists earlier this month when he claimed that unionist leaders had told him the Orange Order, PUP and UVF were “one and the same thing” in Belfast.

In response, First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson branded Mr McGuinness “a dictator.”

However, the senior Sinn Féin leader rejected Mr Robinson’s remarks, saying: “I have to say I don’t think anybody who knows me believes for one minute that I am a dictator of any sort, I haven’t got that sort of personality.”

Mr McGuinness also said he was standing by his remarks. “There is a particular difficulty over the conversations and the interviews of the last number of weeks. The reality is that everybody within the political process knows that the Orange Order in Belfast, particularly in north Belfast, has been hijacked by the Ulster Volunteer Force and by the PUP.

“I am not going to back down from that and in fact the challenge really isn’t for me - the challenge is for those who are not prepared to publicly state what they know to be true themselves,” he said.

The Deputy First Minister said unionist leaders need to challenge extremists in their own communities. “I do believe that as I have stood against so-called republican dissidents, in some of the most very difficult circumstances for republicans - stood alongside chief constables and first ministers to unreservedly to condemn the activities of so called dissident republicans - I don’t think it is too much to expect that whenever the peace process is being attacked by extreme loyalists that unionists politicians will stand with me.

“Did unionist politicians stand with me over the last 18 months? The answer to that is no. And I am not going to back down from that,” he said.