Sinn Fein leader Martin McGuinness has moved swiftly to distance himself from claims former IRA leaders are ready to apologize to all victims of the Troubles.
Just days after shaking hands with the Queen of England, McGuinness has reacted to newspaper reports that his former IRA leaders will apologize to IRA victims including British soldiers.
The report is outlined in the Sunday Business Post newspaper and says that the Provisional IRA leadership are considering the unprecedented apology.
The paper says that talks are ongoing in republican circles with senior figures pushing for the apology.
But speaking to Irish state television station RTE, McGuinness appeared to discount the story while admitting that his Sinn Fein party are currently involved in ‘significant’ talks with unionist leaders.
McGuinness said: “I don’t know where story is originating from because the IRA are gone; I don’t know who’s going to apologize.”
He did however reveal that he believes a ‘collective’ apology should be issued by all the parties involved in the Troubles, ‘including’ the British government.
He said: “It is absolutely heartbreaking that we have been through almost 100 years of partition in the North, decade after decade of conflict – and a very bitter conflict that lasted 25 years in which an awful lot of people lost their lives. How could you not be sorry that all that happened?
“But if people are going to say sorry, then everybody should say it collectively, in my mind. And that includes the British government.
“The British government cannot exclude themselves from the debate that we’re seeking to have which I think will be good for all of us. We have come a long way, but there is still an awful long way to go.”
On the RTE programme, McGuinness also accused the British Prime Minister David Cameron of becoming ‘disengaged’ from the peace process.
“First Minister Peter Robinson and myself have met with the US president more often than the prime minister,” he added.
In reference to last week’s famous handshake, McGuinness said that he told the Queen and Prince Philip that he recognized that they too had lost a loved one during the Troubles in the IRA atrocity that killed Lord Mountbatten.
“I will not repeat the Queen’s words in response because that would not be proper but she was understanding of the need for everybody to work together to move forward,” he said.
“She was very gracious about it.”
McGuinness added: “The peace process has come an awful long way and is the most successful in the world today.
“But the one flaw in the peace process so far is that no way has been found for dealing with the past and for dealing with victims.
“Currently there are very important meetings being held by Sinn Féin leaders and senior Protestant clergymen and Unionist figures in order to build on the reconciliation phase of the peace process.”