Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Martin McGuinness at the UN

When I was President of the UN Correspondents' Association we were grappling with censorship. The UN at the behest of Beijing refused to allow dissidents from Tien An Men Square to enter the building to talk to the press there. They also banned Taiwanese representatives and even correspondents from entering. So we kept pushing the envelope.

Among others, we had Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness come to speak to us on several occasions, with quite big coverage in the media. This was throwing stones at two separate targets since ridiculous British censorship rules banned the media there from broadcasting them.  To be fair, we also tried to get the Unionist leader David Trimble, but he would not come.

To get the IRA in, I had to liaise with UN Security, who jumped to the task with alacrity, since many of them were Irish American veterans of the NYPD.  The officer in charge  told me as I waited to escort our visitors in that "as a courtesy to Mr McGuiness," he would not have to go through the metal detector. He looked puzzled when I laughed and suggested that as a courtesy to the thousands of staff in the UN, perhaps an IRA veteran should be a priority to put through the detector!

Later Sir David Hannay, the British Ambassador asked me how the visit had gone, and I told him it was fine, but we disappointed that the UK had not asked Boutros Ghali to ban the press conference. he said indignantly with raised eyebrows and in best patrician fashion, "Ian, who do you think we are, the Chinese?"

Whatever his past, which was certainly now worse than many other bloodstained characters to speak at the UN, they have risen from their past with the current, more durable, peace in Northern Ireland!

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