Irish Republican News · March 23, 2017
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Large crowds attend funeral of Martin McGuinness
Large crowds attend funeral of Martin McGuinness

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Senior political figures and officials from the Irish, British and US establishments have joined thousands of mourners from across Ireland to attend the funeral in Derry of Martin McGuinness.

The former IRA commander who became deputy First Minister for the Six Counties died on Monday at the age of 66 from a rare systemic illness. There was no IRA or military aspect to the funeral, although his coffin was draped with the Irish flag.

Former US President Bill Clinton and former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern attended, with the current British government represented by the British Direct Ruler in Ireland, James Brokenshire, and the PSNI police chief George Hamilton. The 26 County government was represented by President Michael D Higgins.

The leader of the Democratic Unionist Party and former First Minister, Arlene Foster, who had been undecided about attending until last night, arrived for the church ceremony, and received a cheer for her efforts.

Hours before the funeral got underway, thousands gathered in front of Mr McGuinness’s house in Derry’s Bogside, where Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was seen comforting mourners.

Mr McGuinness’s wife Bernie and children, Grainne, Fionnuala, Fiachra and Emmet escorted the coffin out of their house on Westland Terrace. Family members assisted in shouldering the coffin as did senior Sinn Fein figures such as Gerry Adams, Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou McDonald.

Close to the house Frances Black sang one of his favourite songs, Raglan Road, while Matt Molloy of the Chieftains played a slow air on the flute.

The procession made its way past the Free Derry Wall mural, where many of those present clapped in tribute to the man widely credited for his role in bringing peace to the north of Ireland.

‘COMPLEX’

Father Michael Canny, who delivered the homily at Saint Columba’s Church, described Mr McGuinness as “a complex man”.

“He was born into a community where faith, Catholicism and Nationalism were intertwined,” he said. “He was a man of simple tastes who ascended to the political summit. He visited the White House, Downing Street and Windsor Castle, but only ever felt at home in his beloved Bogside, returning to his wife and family at every opportunity.

“He shook hands with presidents, prime ministers, Taoisigh and even royalty, but was most comfortable walking with Bernie along the backshore at Buncrana, or wandering at Inch Island or up at Grianan, or along a river bank fishing.”

He added that in his last television interview, Mr McGuinness was asked about the judgement of history.

“He wasn’t worried about what historians thought, he told Tommie Gorman; he said he would leave it to the judgement of people. He asked only that he be judged fairly.”

‘INDISPENSIBLE’

On Wednesday, political leaders continued to praise his work to end the Provisional IRA’s armed struggle. British Prime Minister Theresa May told parliament she could never condone the former IRA commander’s “violent past” but she praised his “indispensable” role in moving the Provisional IRA away from armed conflict.

Despite continuing turmoil over Mr McGuinness’s decision to collapse power-sharing at Stormont in January -- his final political act -- a special session of the Stormont Assembly was held on Wednesday. His successor in the post of Sinn Fein leader in the North, Michelle O’Neill, paid an emotional tribute.

She told the Assembly her heart was broken yet bursting with pride. “The legacy that Martin wished was for a better future based on equality and measured by the joy and laughter of all of our children,” she said. “So, on behalf of Sinn Fein I rededicate our party to completing his life’s work and to living through his legacy.”

DUP leader Arlene Foster acknowledged that the North would “never see his like again”. She said Mr McGuinness’s legacy was “complex and challenging”.

“Things have fundamentally changed since I was growing up in the 70s and 80s and changed immeasurably for the better and Martin McGuinness did play a role which I will always condemn in the 70s and 80s, but I also have to acknowledge the role that he played over this last decade and more in government in Northern Ireland,” she said.

In the 48 hours since he died, Sinn Fein held vigils across Ireland, the largest of which took place in Belfast. Crowds also turned out in wintry weather to pay their respects in Dublin, Newry and several towns across the north, as well as outside the European Parliament in Brussels.

‘INSTRUMENTAL’

Meanwhile, former US president Barack Obama added his voice to tributes to the former Sinn Fein minister, saying his leadership was “instrumental” during the peace process.

Mr Obama described Mr McGuinness as “a man who had the wisdom and courage to pursue peace and reconciliation for his people”.

“His leadership was instrumental in turning the page on a past of violence and conflict that he knew all too well.

“In our own meetings, I was always struck by his good humour and persistent belief in a better future for the people of Northern Ireland,” he added.

“May Martin rest in the peace that he pursued in life, and may his example inspire others to follow a path of reconciliation,” said Mr Obama.

© 2017 Irish Republican News