Methodist minister '˜sorry' for hurt caused by McGuinness statements

A Methodist minister has apologised to anyone who was hurt or offended by statements issued by his church in the wake of Martin McGuinness's retirement and death.

Friday, 31st March 2017, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 7:06 pm
Rev David Clements, whose father was murdered by the IRA, urged Martin McGuinness to apologise for the cruel things done by the IRA

As reported by the News Letter on Wednesday, Rev David Clements wrote to Martin McGuinness two months ago to urge him to apologise for the “cruel things done” by the IRA.

His father, reserve Constable William Clements, was shot by the IRA at close range at the gates of Ballygawley police station on December 7, 1985, along with reserve Constable George Gilliland.

Rev Clements, who said he does not know whether Mr McGuinness had read his letter before his death last week, described how the former IRA commander’s refusal to express any regrets for his past “grieves me deeply”.

Martin McGuinness pictured in Londonderry in 1985

Yesterday, the News Letter suggested to Rev Clements that his letter stood in stark contrast to two statements issued by president of the Methodist Church in Ireland, Rev Bill Mullally, one after Mr McGuinness resigned, the other following his death earlier this month.

The statements spoke of Mr McGuinness’s “honesty” and his “journey of immense courage, determination and humility”.

The latter statement, after Mr McGuinness died, made no reference whatsoever to the IRA leader’s long history of violence, often at a senior level in an organisation that murdered almost 1,800 people and planted bombs across the UK.

When asked if he had taken issue with the wording of the two statements, Rev Clements – chair of the Methodist Council on Social Responsibilty – told the News Letter he had no difficulty with the content.

Martin McGuinness pictured in Londonderry in 1985

However, he added that he had received criticism from some people who had “felt hurt by what was said”.

He added: “The [first] statement sent out after Martin McGuinness’s retirement came to me before it was issued, so I am happy to stand over it.

“I did not see the other statement [which did not mention IRA violence at all] until after it was released, but I do not disagree with what has been said and I don’t regret that as a church we made these remarks.

“But I am sorry to anyone who felt hurt by what was said.”

Yesterday, Rev Mullally told the News Letter: “In making these comments I was in no way ignoring Martin McGuinness’s IRA past and the great pain he caused to countless innocent families and communities.

“While these are well recorded, we cannot ignore the contribution Mr McGuinness made to peace in his latter life.”

In the first statement, issued after Mr McGuinness resigned, Rev Mullally spoke of his “honesty”.

But Ed Moloney, who has written extensively about republicans, wrote in Saturday’s News Letter that Martin McGuinness “lied repeatedly about his life in the IRA, lied more, perhaps, than Gerry Adams”.

He said: “The Sinn Fein president has repeatedly denied ever being in the IRA whereas McGuinness maintained that while he was a member in the early 1970s he quit the organisation in 1974.

“That’s one more lie than Gerry Adams has told about his life; first that he left the IRA, which he never did, and that thereafter he was never a member. Not only he did not quit in 1974 but at that time Martin McGuinness’s IRA career was really only beginning.”

Rev Clements said his letter to Mr McGuinness – urging him to apologise for the “cruel things done” by the IRA – was in part prompted by a desire to “strike a balance between being gracious and truthful”.

He explained: “On the one hand, Martin McGuinness played a significant role in the IRA, but I genuinely believe he changed in his later years and wanted to do good.

“On the other hand, we have to accept that talking about Martin McGuinness in this way can cause a lot of hurt for those who suffered at the hands of the IRA.”