03 June, 2011

“At a dark hour in Ireland; Barry McGuigan’s spirit shone a light towards peace. Barry’s not only a champion, he’s a hero,”

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FINEST HOUR: McGuigan celebrates World Title Triumph
 - those words come from U2's Bono who was asked to sum up Barry McGuigan for the cover of his new book.  For Barry McGuigan delved far beyond the boxing world, far beyond the sporting world to be an Irish and indeed, international, symbol of peace in what is the cruelest of cruel games.  
At the height of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland Barry McGuigan ‘The Clones Cyclone’ was the new featherweight boxing champion. In his new autobiography he has revealed that undercover police officers issued him with a gun for his own protection.
McGuigan fought with a dove of peace on his shorts and united fans from the North and South. He even sparked the cross-border slogan “Leave the Fighting to McGuigan”. The former boxer admits that the day he was handed a firearm is burnt into his memory. 
“I was told there was a plot to kidnap me…Security forces on both sides of the border were keeping an eye on me. It came at a time when people were disappearing and not long after the kidnapping of the racehorse Shergar. So I was issued with a gun and the police taught me how to shoot it.”
Speaking to "The Mirror" he said “I couldn’t hit a barn door! I was terrible. It was really funny...but at the same time deadly serious. I had plain clothes police guys travelling with me everywhere for a while in case I was nabbed.
“My suspicion is it was all about ransom – attempting to raise money for terrorist activities. But I think the terrorists then realized that because of my popularity and non-political stance, kidnapping me had the potential to backfire.
“Perhaps that’s why – thank God – the threat never materialized. Now, when I look back at some of the things I did and the statements I was making, I was very lucky to come through it unscathed.”
ICON FOR PEACE: Barry McGuigan at the launch of his book
McGuigan (50) is now a columnist with the Mirror and a boxing commentator. He was born in 1961 in Clones, a Monaghan Cavan border town.
Although his grandfather had been an IRA captain in the 1920 McGuigan said “I always promoted peace and reconciliation. It was important to make a statement of neutrality.”
McGuigan still feels passionately about promoting reconciliation in Ireland. Last year he was honored with the UN Inspiration Award for Peace.  

A fitting tribute to a man who transcended boundaries when boundaries were all that people knew.

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