The late Martin McGuinness, a former deputy first minister of Northern Ireland and member of the terrorist Irish Republican Army.

Press Association

San Francisco's Mayor Apologizes For Honoring Former IRA Leader

Doug Sovern
March 12, 2019 - 8:58 am

SAN FRANCISCO — Mayor London Breed apologized for recently issuing a posthumous honor to a former leader of the terrorist Irish Republican Army that had created an uproar in Northern Ireland and Britain

As part of the upcoming St. Patrick's Day festivities, Breed had awarded the late Martin McGuinness a certificate of honor on Friday, celebrating his "courageous service in the military." 

McGuinness, however, was second in command of the IRA, an Irish Catholic terrorist organization that carried out bombings and other attacks in its conflict with Protestant loyalists and British authorities. Thousands of people died in the decades of partisan violence in Northern Ireland and Britain known as the Troubles. 

Survivors of IRA attacks and relatives of victims criticized Breed and called on her to retract the award, according to the BBC and Irish Times.

"San Francisco values means respect for the democratic process and non-violent political actions," said Breed, in a statement on Monday. "I apologize for the pain this Certificate has caused."

The certificate's wording should have emphasized McGuinness' later role in the peace process after he renounced violence, Breed said.

The United Irish Societies of San Francisco chose McGuinness for the honor, Breed said. That group annually chooses the honorary grand marshals for the St. Patrick's Day parade. 

McGuinness went on to become an instrumental figure in the Northern Ireland peace process that led to the Good Friday accord of 1998 and subsequently served as deputy first minister in Northern Ireland's power-sharing government. He died in 2017 at age 66. 

"The national, republican and Catholic communities will see this as a fine honor who accomplished great things, who put a huge part of his life into the struggle for Irish independence," said Sky News correspondent Enda Brady. "But the unionist and Protestant community in Northern Ireland, they will be absolutely horrified by this. People who were victims of IRA violence, people who suffered shootings and assassinations and car bombings on a daily and weekly basis, they will be absolutely horrified."