Rev Dr David Clements letter to Martin McGuinness

29th March 2017

30 January 2017

Dear Martin,

I write this short letter to you in a personal capacity for two particular reasons.

Firstly, I want to wish you well in your retirement and pray that your health may recover in good measure. A colleague and mutual friend has given me to understand that you do really appreciate the prayers of God’s people. I have prayed for you this morning and will continue to do so in days to come.

I also would take this opportunity to express gratitude to you for the leadership you have shown over the last number of years.  I have never been a supporter of Sinn Fein or the DUP but I recognise and value the fact that you and Dr Paisley together shifted the log-jam and made possible more progress at Stormont than many(myself included) might have imagined possible. I appreciate the journey you have taken and thank God for the evident grace he has given you along the way. The present crisis not-withstanding, we owe you much gratitude for the part you have played in recent decades. 

The second reason for writing is more difficult and if you don’t read on I will understand.  You probably know little or nothing about me, we have met I think only once and that very briefly, though I have had quite a number of meetings and conversations with other senior members of your party.  My father was murdered by the IRA in 1985. 

I have worked for over twenty years with WAVE in support of victims of the Troubles – including support for the Disappeared and the campaign for a pension for the injured, which shamefully has not yet been delivered.  That is perhaps enough background for what I now say.

In interviews you gave you spoke very eloquently and many things you said were helpful.  But, one thing you said grieves me deeply.  It is something you have said consistently.  It is that you do not regret your time in the IRA or the things that the IRA did during the time of the ‘armed struggle’.

I read a piece in the Belfast Telegraph this morning under the headline; “Widower: I won’t forgive McGuiness for the IRA destroying my family.”  It was the story of the murder of Joanne Mathers in Derry in 1981 and her husband’s feelings these many years on.  I don’t think I know this man or his son but I feel deeply for them both.

I think I understand how difficult it would be for you to say that you are not proud of what the IRA did, never mind that at its core, it was wicked.  Political considerations and personal feelings may make those words near impossible.  Nevertheless I would want you to know how important that would be to so many who have suffered terribly at the hands of the Republican movement. 

This may be a ridiculously impertinent suggestion, but I wonder would you consider making an apology on behalf of the IRA for the cruel things done to the likes of Joanne Mathers and my father who were gunned down just doing their jobs in service of the community? If you can’t speak the words now, might you consider writing them down to be released at some time in the future, perhaps after you and others concerned have gone into the presence of God? 

If you are still reading at this point, let me say again that I wish you well and will still pray for you and your family in the days ahead.

Yours sincerely, 

David  Clements