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It ended for Martin McGuinness where it all began, back home in Derry

By Deborah McAleese

In the words of Republican hero Bobby Sands, it ended for Martin McGuinness where it all began, Back Home In Derry.

For a man who underwent the ultimate voyage of transformation, his final journey was a slow walk on a fresh spring day through the streets of his beloved city.

World leaders, as well as ordinary men and women, came out to mourn one of the most divisive figures in Irish political history.

A piper and flautist played as the former Stormont deputy first minister left his home for the last time at 1.20pm.

His coffin was gently set down on the street outside his house and a Tricolour flag placed over it by members of Sinn Fein.

Family members then lifted him and began their slow walk through the city to the church, led by two pipers.

Several main roads were closed as tens of thousands of people crowded on to the streets to pay their respects to the Derry man.

As the funeral procession made its way through the Bogside area the coffin was handed over to members of Sinn Fein leadership, including Gerry Adams and Michelle O'Neill.

They carried it towards Free Derry corner, along the route taken by civil rights marchers on Bloody Sunday in 1972.

The procession passed by many murals of the city's troubled past and made its way up a steep hill to St Columba's church, Long Tower, for requiem mass.

A picture of an armed gunman with the slogan IRA hung on a post along the roadside.

As the procession arrived applause echoed along the streets.

A hush then fell over the crowd as the coffin entered the church where former US president Bill Clinton sat amongst the 66-year-old's family, friends, colleagues and former IRA comrades.

A welcoming applause greeted DUP leader Arlene Foster, who just weeks ago had angered many republicans by comparing Sinn Fein with crocodiles.

In a symbolic gesture, Mrs Foster and Michelle O'Neill - who replaced Mr McGuinness as leader of Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland - warmly shook hands. So too did Gerry Adams and former DUP leader Peter Robinson.

They heard stories during the mass about Martin McGuinness the husband, who loved his wife Bernie's dinners of cabbage and bacon, of the devoted father and grandfather, the political leader, the peace maker.

His violent past was not ignored, with mention also made of Martin McGuinness the IRA commander.

When a young McGuinness joined the IRA four decades ago, to have republicans and unionists join together in his death would have been unimaginable.

As the evening sun went down the funeral procession arrived at the city cemetery, situated on a hill overlooking his home town.

The voice of Irish folk singer Christy Moore washed over the cemetery as Martin McGuinness was laid to rest.

And the words of his song, The Time Has Come, marked the end of the remarkable, complex life of a man once known as "the boy who rules free Derry".

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