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Wednesday, 30 October, 2002, 03:20 GMT
McGuinness: My war is over
Martin McGuinness's career is examined in documentary
From Bogside rebel to Stormont minister

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness has signalled his violent past is behind him and he is firmly committed to the political path.

In a documentary to be broadcast on Wednesday evening on BBC One Northern Ireland, he states: "My war is over.

"My job as a political leader is to prevent war.

"My job is to continue to ensure a political set of circumstances which will never again see British soldiers or members of the IRA lose their lives as a result of political conflict.

"I feel very passionate about that.

Martin McGuinness pictured in the Bogside in Derry in 1969
Martin McGuinness talks about joining the IRA as a young man

"My political project until the day I retire from politics or die is to build a better future for all of our people.

"That is my project. It is a political project - not a military one."

While he stops short of saying "the war is over" he says he is "totally committed to politics".

His remarks are the closest a Sinn Fein leader has come to signalling that a peaceful path is the only way forward.

In the past Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams had said that conflict must be made a thing of the past.

But when pressed recently to echo the words of former IRA prisoner Martin Meehan, Mr Adams stopped short of endorsing the comments.

'No longer IRA member'

Mr McGuinness - who has admitted to holding a senior position within the IRA - also told the BBC documentary he is no longer in the IRA. But he would not be drawn on when he left.

The programme also includes:

  • revelations that unbeknown to other members of the IRA delegation, Martin McGuinness carried a gun into secret talks with Willie Whitelaw in London in 1972.

  • the first television interview with his mother, Peggy McGuinness

  • rare insights to his home life

  • an admission by Mr McGuinness, for the first time, that undercover agent Willie Carlin was in fact a member of Sinn Fein

    In the documentary, Mr McGuinness speaks about his childhood, his religious beliefs, his role in the Good Friday negotiations, life as an education minister and the recent suspension of the institutions.

    Entitled simply Martin McGuinness, the documentary attempts to unmask the man once described as the Godfather of Godfathers.

    Martin McGuinness relished his job as education minister
    Martin McGuinness relished his job as education minister

    While the programme does look at the darker side of his past, it sheds light on the transformation, of his journey from Bogside rebel to the heart of Stormont as education minister.

    While he refuses to be drawn on specific allegations relating to his IRA past, Mr McGuinness talks frankly about his reasons for joining the organisation when he was 19-years-old.

    "I became a member of the IRA because of the political experiences that I had seen.... thoughts do turn to how you can be more effective on terms of confronting the British Army and the RUC, there are limits to what you can do with a bricks and bottles.

    "And at the same time lead bullets were being used against the people.

    "So I and many others made a very conscious decision to seek to join the IRA, to be more effective in our resistance."

    Martin McGuinness's mother speaks about his life
    Martin McGuinness's mother speaks about his life

    Mr McGuinness tells a story about former secretary of state Mo Mowlam during the week of Good Friday in 1998.

    Dr Mowlam had come into the Sinn Fein offices at Castle Buildings and asked what the Easter lilies, which were sitting on a table, represented.

    A Sinn Fein member explained they were worn to honour Ireland's dead. Mo Mowlam asked to have one and put it on the lapel of her coat.

    Mr McGuinness tells the programme that "luckily for her" he met Mo Mowlam leaving their office and "told her to take it (the lily) off, because if you are seen by any of the Unionists it's going to cause a major international incident which could be severely to the detriment of this entire process".

    "She said oops and took it off wisely."

    A wide-range of people are interviewed for the programme: Commentators, colleagues and political opponents.

    One man who claims to have worked alongside Mr McGuinness in the 1980s was a former soldier who became an undercover agent, Willie Carlin.

    Willie Carlin's job was to infiltrate Sinn Fein in Derry and report to the government - he talks of his time in the Cable Street office.

    With the suspension of Stormont, Mr McGuinness says he does not knows if he will be back as education minister but says: "I am not demoralised, my head isn't down".

    Martin McGuinness will be broadcast on BBC One Northern Ireland on Wednesday at 2235 GMT.

    Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness:
    "My job as a political leader is to prevent war"
    Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness:
    "My war is over"
    See also:

    23 Oct 02 | N Ireland
    14 Oct 02 | N Ireland
    30 Apr 01 | N Ireland
    30 Nov 99 | N Ireland
    30 Nov 99 | N Ireland
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