McGuinness praises 'republican' Fermanagh for Sands turning point

Published: 17 May 2012 13:002 comments

DEPUTY First Minister Martin McGuinness has said there is "no going back" to the old days.

Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness (left) meeting some of the young people attending the annual Fermanagh Sinn Fein dinner in the Westville Hotel, Enniskillen. Included are local Sinn Fein politicians, Michelle Gildernew MP and MLA's Sean Lynch and Phil Flanagan.<

DEPUTY First Minister Martin McGuinness has said there is "no going back" to the old days.

The Sinn Fein politician and former IRA member believes anyone wanting to return to a time when death and destruction was so rife on our streets "is living in cloud cuckoo land".

Speaking as guest of honour at the £30-a-head Fermanagh Sinn Fein dinner dance at the Westville Hotel last Friday night, Mr. McGuinness said his party had spent 20 years "developing a peace process", adding: "There has already been change. There will be no going back. Equality rules, the orange state is gone, the power of the Orange Order is gone".

He also credited hunger striker Bobby Sands as his main inspiration for getting into politics.

"I was very young when the 1981 hunger strikes took place and it was a very brave decision by republicans to stand in a Westminister election, a by-election, and put forward a candidate who was a prisoner in Long Kesh.

"The people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone came out and supported Bobby Sands, which clearly showed huge sympathy for the republican struggle within the broad and nationalist communities," he said.

Mr. McGuinness added: "It is to the eternal credit of this republican county that the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone stood by Bobby Sands and the prisoners in the H-Block at Long Kesh. That will always be remembered in Irish history as a turning point in the struggle."

He told the audience that he wouldn't have got into politics had it not been for Bobby Sands and the people of Fermanagh.

And he described Sinn Fein's success in recent years as "nothing short of spectacular".

"We have developed a strategy, and peace process, for 20 years. To have three candidates [Michelle Gildernew, Sean Lynch and Phil Flanagan] elected last year was amazing for us.

"When we canvassed here for Michelle Gildernew in 2010 the odds against her were considerable. Who would have been surprised if a Unionist [Unity Candidate Rodney Connor] had won that seat? But they didn't. We won the seat by four seats and the sceptics were confounded. That was an amazing victory and it showed the level of support that there is for republicanism in County Fermanagh," he said.

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