Robinson rejects 'cowardice' claim

Robinson rejects 'cowardice' claim

First Minister Peter Robinson has fiercely rejected an allegation made by deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness that he was guilty of "cowardice of the worst kind" in not condemning the crimes of loyalist paramilitaries.

During Monday's assembly question time, Stormont's First Minister delivered a stinging response to his partner in government's claim.Earlier this month, the Sinn Féin deputy First Minister alleged that the DUP leader and other unionist politicians had been reluctant to link the UVF to attacks against both foreign nationals and on the offices of the Alliance party in his east Belfast constituency.Mr McGuinness claimed Mr Robinson was motivated by fear of losing votes in working class loyalist areas in this week's European and local government elections.Answering an assembly question from party colleague Jonathan Craig, Mr Robinson insisted he condemned the actions of anyone involved in criminal acts.Mr Robinson branded Mr McGuinness's comment as "synthetic" and claimed it was designed to deflect the attention that had been shone on Sinn Féin in the wake of the arrest of party president Gerry Adams over the 1972 murder of Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville.Mr Adams, who vehemently denies any involvement in the killing, was released earlier this month after four days of questioning pending a police report being sent to the Public Prosecution Service for assessment.During the episode, Mr McGuinness had indicated Sinn Féin would review its support for the PSNI if Mr Adams had been charged.However, following his release, Mr Adams put his and his party's backing firmly behind the police and their work.Mr Robinson claimed Mr McGuinness was trying to shift focus from his comments on the PSNI.He then launched a strident attack on Sinn Féin, claiming he would not take lectures on cowardice from a party linked to the IRA."What I do believe to be cowardice of the worst kind - that's those who shoot people in the back and have done so in the past," he said."It's the cowardice of those who strap an individual in a car and then put a bomb in it."It's the cowardice of those who take a young mother - a mother-of-10 and a widow - from her children, torture her, tie her hands behind her back and then shot her in the back of the head."That's cowardice of the worst kind."The DUP leader then challenged the Sinn Féin assembly members sitting on the opposite benches to raise their hands if they believed the IRA had exhibited cowardice.None of them obliged."Not one, Mr Speaker," Mr Robinson continued, as he listed a number of other notorious IRA attacks."Not one would say that those who tied a bomb to the window of the La Mon hotel and then had a napalm-style effect on those who had gone to enjoy a dinner for the Collie Club - that is cowardice of the worst kind."Those who planted a bomb at a Remembrance Service in Enniskillen - that's cowardice of the worst kind."Those who would stop a vehicle with workmen returning home at Kingsmill - that's cowardice of the worst kind."So I will not take lectures from anybody on the issue of cowardice."Responding following the assembly session, Mr McGuinness said: "We can all recriminate about the past, there's much I could recriminate about in relation to unionist politicians and their involvement in different situations over the past."I haven't done that during my time as deputy First Minister, but what I've heard in the last number of days amounts to an attempt by unionist politicians almost to ignore the fact that the UVF are involved in these attacks."What is required is for all of us to stand four-square behind the police, behind ethnic minorities and behind the Alliance Party, particularly for Peter in east Belfast in his own constituency."


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