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The BBC's Denis Murray
"Just as significant is what Martin McGuinness will say is that he is saying it at all"
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DUP Regional Development Minister Gregory Campbell:
"If he was directing the IRA on Bloody Sunday, was he directing the IRA when an RUC man was murdered 72 hours before?"
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Wednesday, 2 May, 2001, 16:09 GMT 17:09 UK
McGuinness confirms IRA role
Martin McGuinness in the 1970s
Martin McGuinness: 1970s IRA leader will not name other members

Northern Ireland education minister Martin McGuinness has confirmed that he was a senior IRA member in Londonderry in the 1970s.

The Sinn Fein minister admitted on Tuesday that he was the IRA's second-in-command in the city in 1971 as part of a draft written submission to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.

But at a press conference at his party's west Belfast headquarters on Wednesday, the leading republican admitted his membership of the IRA in person for the first time.

Asked by a BBC reporter if he was the IRA's second commander in Derry on the day paratroopers fired on the day a civil rights march killing 13 people, he simply answered "Yes."

He added: "I will definitively tell the Bloody Sunday tribunal that the IRA did not engage in any way with the British Army on Bloody Sunday.

"In fact I also will tell them there were no IRA units on the march, in the Rossville Flats area. There were no IRA weapons in that area and that no IRA shots were fired at the British Army."

'Honest account'

Mr McGuinness said that in his statement to the tribunal he had "given a very full and very frank and very honest account of what I was doing on Bloody Sunday."

Martin McGuinness says IRA men did not fire shots on Bloody Sunday
Martin McGuinness says IRA men did not fire shots on Bloody Sunday
He declined to give details of what had been in the draft statement sent to the tribunal, but did say he could dismiss as "rubbish and lie" claims from lawyers for some of the soldiers that IRA men had been shot on Bloody Sunday and been buried in secret across the border in the Irish Republic.

He said he wanted to see the truth of what happened on Bloody Sunday coming out as much as anyone else.

But he said there was a danger that the tribunal was "turning into the Martin McGuinness show" rather than an investigation into the killing of 14 people by paratroopers on 30 January 1972.

'Truth tribunal'

He said if his contribution to the tribunal in any small way "contributes to the lifting of the veil and the conspiracy of silence of the last 30-odd years, then I think it is a very positive thing to do".

Asked if he would reveal when he had joined the IRA and when he had left the organisation, he side-stepped the question.

Questioned on whether other members of the IRA would give evidence to the tribunal, he said that would be for them to decide: "I am speaking for me."

Mixed reaction

Mr McGuinness's decision to provide his testimony is a breakthrough for the tribunal, which has been pursuing him and other republicans for the past three years to establish what they were doing during the civil rights demonstration in the Bogside.

On Wednesday, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said he thought Mr McGuinness had made his statement "in the spirit of the Saville inquiry" into the Bloody Sunday shootings.

However, hard-line unionists have said Mr McGuinness should face criminal charges - or at least questions about IRA murders and other actions beyond Bloody Sunday.

Adams challenged

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has been challenged to reveal his past in the IRA following the admission by Mr McGuinness.

Ulster Unionist North Belfast MP Cecil Walker said in the light of Mr McGuinness's decision to admit to the Saville Inquiry his position "it is time for Gerry Adams to come clean on his past in the republican movement".

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See also:

30 Apr 01 | Northern Ireland
McGuinness reveals IRA role
29 Apr 01 | Northern Ireland
Profile: Martin McGuinness
30 Apr 01 | Northern Ireland
An eagerly awaited testimony
05 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
Claim over Bloody Sunday's 'first shot'
26 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
McGuinness will give inquiry evidence
27 Nov 00 | Northern Ireland
'Innocents' died on Bloody Sunday
22 Nov 00 | Northern Ireland
Bloody Sunday 'planned' claim
22 Jun 99 | UK
Behind the MI5 myth
26 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
Bloody Sunday victim gives evidence
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