Martin McGuinness: You ask the questions

(Such as: so, do you support the current war on terror? And what exactly did you do on Bloody Sunday?)
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Martin McGuinness was born in Derry, Northern Ireland in 1950. He grew up the second eldest of seven children in the nationalist area of the Bogside, where Bloody Sunday took place. He left school at 15, and joined Sinn Fein in 1970. Last year, he admitted that he was second-in-command of the IRA in Derry at the time of Bloody Sunday.

Since the early 1990s, he has acted as the chief negotiator between the republican movement and the British government, both in secret and more publicly, culminating in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. McGuinness became Minister for Education in 2000, in the power-sharing executive at Stormont. He is married with five children. He includes fishing among his hobbies, and is an ardent fan of Manchester United.

What exactly did you do on Bloody Sunday?
Michael Simon, York

As I have said many times, I attended the march like thousands of other people from Derry and beyond. I have made a detailed statement to the Saville Tribunal and I am awaiting a date to give oral evidence. I think it would be inappropriate to comment further until after that happens.

How have you decorated your new offices in Westminster? What pictures have you put on the walls?
Elizabeth Day, by e-mail

We have not yet been allocated our permanent offices in Westminster. On the day we took possession of the temporary offices, we placed a 1916 Proclamation on the wall, along with the Irish tricolour. For us, it is the work that will go on in the offices rather than how they look that's important.

How will you be spending the Queen's Jubilee?
Peter Wright, London

As an Irish republican, I obviously have no real desire to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reign of the British monarch. However, I recognise that there are many who hold the monarchy in high regard and who wish to celebrate this event. Therefore, provisions have been made by my department to allow schools to take a holiday on this date if they wish. If they do not, then the holiday can be taken at a later date.

I notice that on TV, you rarely blink. Does this take a lot of practice?
Mark Beattie, Belfast

I have to say, I never noticed. I'll have to take your word on it.

If a young man or woman who was a nationalist asked you for three reasons why they shouldn't join the IRA, what would you say?
Cillian Harrington, Derry

It has been the role of Sinn Fein for many years to build on the peace process. If we continue to move forward, the sort of society we create will ensure that no young person – be they nationalist, republican, Unionist, loyalist or British – will once again find themselves in a situation where they are considering involvement in military conflict in Ireland.

What's the biggest lie you've read about yourself in the media?
Dylan Hardy, by e-mail

There have been so many, it is difficult to pick one that stands out. But the most outlandish claim is that I fired shots on Bloody Sunday. Nobody in Derry or in Ireland believes this. It is a pathetic attempt to deflect attention from the reality that the British Army massacred 14 peaceful civil-rights marchers that day.

Who is your best friend in the republican movement?
Matthew Wallace, Brighton

That's a very difficult question. Over the years, I have met and worked with many, many good people. Obviously, Gerry Adams has played a big part in my life but there have been others, too. Barney McFadden, a former Sinn Fein Councillor from Derry who recently died, acted as my mentor for many years, and his death has left a massive gap in both my political and personal life.

What do you think of the Bogside being designated an official tourist site?
Tommy Kelly, Derry

The Bogside has played an immense part in my life. The people there have suffered greatly at the hands of the British state. We witnessed the Battle of the Bogside followed by Bloody Sunday, internment, the hunger strikes, and more. Yet the community has stuck together and is facing the future confidently. The Bogside has a story to tell and is an obvious place for a tourist in search of a warm welcome to visit.

Do you support the war on terror?
Natasha Wood, Devon

Terrorism is ethically indefensible. Those responsible for the atrocities in the United States must be brought to justice. What happened in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania was, as the UN Human Rights Commissioner and former Irish President Mary Robinson said, "a crime against humanity". Progressive struggles throughout the world have been set back by the attacks in the USA. There is no excuse, no justification for those type of actions. But while nations have an individual right to defend themselves and their citizens, only the UN can give global legitimacy to the struggle to eliminate terrorism. The real challenge is for dialogue, not retribution. That is the lesson of the peace process on this island.

A bomb is placed in a litter bin outside McDonald's in Warrington on a busy Saturday afternoon. How can you justify targeting children?
Tim Knight, Bristol

I do not justify targeting children and I never have. I recently travelled to Warrington and met with the families of those killed on that terrible day. I admire the manner in which they have conducted themselves and the efforts they have made in building the Tim Parry and Johnathan Ball Peace Centre. It is our duty as political leaders to ensure that there are no more Warringtons, or Bloody Sundays.

Do you feel that your lack of education is a handicap to being Education Minister?
Mrs Carol Gregg, Glasgow

I don't feel that I have a lack of education. I may have a lack of qualifications, but I think that I have displayed in my work that I am an effective minister dealing with a challenging but ultimately rewarding brief.

Have you ever shaken hands with David Trimble? Ever had a drink with him?
Katie Meyers, Cambridge

I have obviously met with David Trimble on many occasions throughout the peace process. However, he has yet to shake my hand. I think that probably says more about Mr Trimble than it does anything else.

When will Ireland be united? What role will Unionists play when it is?
Dr Hoffman, London

I firmly believe that we are in the countdown to a united Ireland. Unionism has a massive role to play in this. For republicans, it is a job of work to persuade Unionists that their interests are better served being 20 per cent of a united Ireland than 2 per cent of a United Kingdom. A united Ireland would not be a cold place for Unionists. It is going to happen, and in the lifetime of most people reading this article.

Have you ever had a Unionist in your home? Have you ever had a Unionist as a friend?
Debbie Glass, Tyrone

Yes.

Why do Northern Irish politicians appear so po-faced? I lived in Ireland for a year and found the Irish – from both north and south of the border – to have a terrific sense of humour, so why can't you politicians reflect this?
Mark Oliver, Fermanagh

You're obviously not watching the Sinn Fein team!

Were you an obedient pupil at school?
Dan Peters, by e-mail

Of course.

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