‘I feel pity for McGuinness’ says IRA victim’s brother

Former Mayor of Lisburn Ronnie Crawford with former First Minister Arlene Foster.

Former Mayor of Lisburn Ronnie Crawford with former First Minister Arlene Foster.

A former Mayor of Lisburn whose brother was murdered by the IRA has said he bears Martin McGuinness no ill will, despite claims the Sinn Fein man read a eulogy at the funeral of his brother’s killer, something Mr McGuinness denies.

Following numerous media reports about the former Deputy First Minister’s ill health and speculation that he may not make a return to Stormont, former UUP councillor Ronnie Crawford said that he feels “a great deal of pity” for Mr McGuinness.

Mr Crawford lost his 38-year-old brother, part-time UDR sergeant Maynard Crawford, in January 1972 when he was shot and killed by the IRA at a building site in Newtownabbey.

The former Mayor told the Ulster Star of media claims that Mr McGuinness spoke at the funeral of the IRA man who is thought to have murdered his brother - something the Sinn Fein man denied when the pair met.

“I was at a meeting in Stormont over the proposed Maze Stadium and Martin McGuinness was there,” Mr Crawford said. “Edwin Poots introduced me mentioning how my brother was shot by the IRA. McGuinness asked me if he had been killed, when I told him he was, he said he was sorry to hear that.

“I told him that the man who shot him was Joe Cunningham, who had been killed six weeks later trying to murder another UDR man and that he (McGuinness) had spoken at the funeral.

“McGuinness said it wasn’t him as he was in Londonderry - but it was in the Irish News. He approached me afterwards and said ‘God bless you Ronnie’. He gave me the impression he was being genuine, so I bear him no ill will.”

Mr Crawford, who retired from politics in 2014, believes that should Mr McGuinness be replaced by Sinn Fein in any new Executive, his successor will be “more hard line”.

“I think it’s fair to say he’s the softer face of Sinn Fein,” Mr Crawford continued. “Whoever replaces him will be a much harder line and more difficult to deal with.

“McGuinness was one of the only ones in Sinn Fein that you could work with. I do think that Ian Paisley had a good influence on him.”

Mr Crawford sat on the council for 25 years, representing Lisburn Town North. He told the Star that he believes the current political situation is “a shambles”.

He added: “The whole thing is a shambles. A lot of people are just getting tired of the whole system. We really are between a rock and a hard place. Perhaps a period of direct rule might be what’s needed.”