‘Diverse opinions’ over Martin McGuinness

A Book of Condolence has opened at the Guildhall for former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. INLS 13-709-CON
A Book of Condolence has opened at the Guildhall for former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. INLS 13-709-CON

Tributes have poured in from across the political spectrum following the death of veteran republican Martin McGuinness.

The former IRA leader and Deputy First Minister, who was understood to have been suffering from a rare heart condition, died on Tuesday, aged 66.

A Book of Condolence has been opened in Londonderry’s Guildhall by the DUP Mayor of Derry and Strabane Council, Alderman Hilary McClintock.

She said: “As Mayor I want to take this opportunity to express my sincere condolences upon hearing the news of the passing of former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. Martin McGuinness was a towering figure in Northern Ireland in general and in the city of Londonderry in particular.

“Whilst there will continue to be a diverse range of opinions on Mr McGuinness’ contribution to society over his lifetime it is clear that he had a passion for the city and the wider North West area.

“In recent years his contribution helped build on the relative peace we now enjoy. I want to extend, both personally, and on behalf of the council, my sympathy to Mr McGuinness’ wife Bernie and his family circle at this deeply traumatic time.”

The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Ken Good also expressed condolences to the McGuinness family.

He said: “There are many in this community who still find it difficult to come to terms with his past involvement in the IRA, and the pain inflicted by that organisation. However, in recent years, Martin McGuinness dedicated himself to constitutional politics and to the peace process.

“He challenged his own community and others, taking undeniable risks for the greater good and developing relationships that would previously have been considered most unlikely.”

A member of a well-known family in the city, Mr McGuinness grew up in the Bogside and after leaving school worked as a butcher. But by the age of 21 he was second-in-command of the IRA in the city. Security figures regarded him as a pivotal figure as the organisation embarked on a campaign of violence.

As Sinn Fein’s chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness steered the movement towards the peace process and surprised many by entering into power sharing with the DUP’s Ian Paisley and going on to shake hands with the Queen.

Whilst alluding to his past many of the tributes from key figures in politics and wider society highlighted his part in the peace process.

East Londonderry SDLP MLA John Dallat said: “On a personal basis I always found Martin McGuinness to be professional and gentlemanly in his dealings with me. In his role as Minister for Education I was grateful for his work to address literacy and numeracy issues which abounded in schools which were under-resourced and not able to deal with the needs of individual pupils who had learning difficulties. I hope that has changed for the better.

“Like many others I acknowledge his contribution to the peace process and hope that those who now have the responsibility to replace him will show the same level of generosity to those they have to deal with and make compromises because politics is the art of compromise.

“Looking back on history there are many things we all wish was different but we are where we are and we must focus on the positives and Martin McGuinness’s involvement in the Peace process was just that.”

Among those commenting on Mr McGuinness were Prime Minister Theresa May, her Irish counterpart Enda Kenny, Irish President Michael D Higgins, Secretary of State James Brokenshire and party leaders from across the political spectrum.

There were tributes too from The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Rt. Rev. Dr. Frank Sella; Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland Eamon Martin, Catholic Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown and Peter Lynas, Northern Ireland director of the Evangelical Alliance.

From the world of business, Mr McGuinness’s support was recognised by Invest NI, CBI and Londonderry Chamber of Commerce. The latter stated: “Martin McGuinness spoke at many Chamber of Commerce events and worked closely with consecutive presidents to help prioritise investment and economic development within the city and region.

“The Chamber is very appreciative of the hard work and commitment from Martin to the peace process and in enabling our society to move ahead. Martin McGuinness was very congenial in his engagements and even if there were different views expressed he was always willing to listen and he showed real leadership in moving our society away from conflict and will be very badly missed.”

Mr McGuinness will be buried tomorrow (Thursday) after requiem mass at 2pm in St Columba’s Long Tower Church.