Lord Tebbit sparks row after saying he hopes Martin McGuinness is shot in the back

Mr McGuinness said the remarks were "not fitting" for someone who holds high political office

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The Independent Online

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has responded angrily to comments by the former Conservative chairman, Lord Tebbit, accusing him of publicly encouraging the assassination of Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Lord Tebbit voiced his disgust at Mr McGuinness' invitation to Windsor Castle by saying he hoped the former IRA commander would be shot in the back by a member of the Real IRA.

Tebbit, who was injured with his wife during the 1984 IRA bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton, said the Queen had no choice about Mr McGuinness attending the State banquet at Windsor Castle last night in honour of the visit of Irish President Michael D Higgins - the first time an Irish head of state has been officially invited to Britain.

He said: "There's always the possibility that a member of the Real IRA will be so outraged by Mr McGuinness bowing to the Queen that they might shoot him in the back for it.

"We can but hope."

Mr McGuinness said the remarks were "not fitting" for someone who holds high political office.

"Obviously the sentiments that he has expressed, I think, are not fitting for someone in the elected position he has been in for a very long time," he said.

But he insisted he would not be drawn into a row over the comments.

"I'm not going to make an issue of it," he said.

"Other people have certainly raised it with me, and some people have advocated that I should make an issue of it - I don't intend to do so."

Mr McGuinness said he understood the pain of people affected by the Troubles and defended their right to protest at his attendance.

"I understand that people are hurting as a result of the fall-out from the conflict and many in my community - in the republican, nationalist community - are also hurting as a result of the conflict," he said.

"Different sections of that community come to this at different speeds."

The former MP, who refused to sit in the House of Commons because of the oath to the Queen and who snubbed her ground-breaking visit to Ireland in 2011, also berated Prime Minister David Cameron over inaction in the Irish peace process.

"I had a word with David Cameron during the course of the event last night and told him that the British Government bears a huge responsibility in terms of moving this process forward," he said.

"It is a responsibility they have not taken up in the course of recent times.

"And I said to him that I think it is vitally important that he has the same hands-on approach to resolving the outstanding issues as had the previous Labour administration."

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny bore the same responsibilities, he added.