Belfast Telegraph

Martin McGuinness funeral: Michelle O'Neill's pride in man 'I spent my life looking up to'

By Staff Reporter

The republican who succeed ed Martin McGuinness as Sinn Fein's Stormont leader said she was "proud to have been asked to take over from a man that I spent my whole life looking up to".

In her graveside oration at Londonderry's City Cemetery, Michelle O'Neill said her mentor did not just talk about republican ideals, he lived his life by them.

"Words can't express my sense of pride, sense of privilege and honour to say a few words as we lay our friend Martin to rest," she said.

More: Martin McGuinness funeral: They came from far and wide... but Arlene Foster made toughest journey

"Martin was a leader to all of us. He was a friend to all of us and he will be a huge loss to all of us. He was a man of great passion. Passion for his family and passion for his country. And he gave everything he could to both."

The Mid Ulster MLA paid heartfelt tribute to Mr McGuinness' family, telling them: "We know you are hurting.

"And we are forever thankful to you for the many sacrifices you have made down through the many long and difficult years of struggle.

"He inspired us, he challenged us, he led from the front. He didn't just make followers, he made other leaders. I'm proud to say he was my good friend."

Mrs O'Neill said that when it was announced in January that Mr McGuinness was passing on the mantle to her as Sinn Fein's new leader at Stormont. "I felt I was the proudest woman in Ireland".

"Proud to have learned from the best, proud to have been asked to take over from a man that I spent my whole life looking up to, but most of all, I was proud of him," she said.

"However, Martin didn't just talk about republican ideals, he lived his life by them each and every day through his actions."

Gerry Adams used his graveside oration to challenge those who described his long time friend as a "terrorist".

"Martin cannot answer them back, so let me answer for him," he said.

"Martin McGuinness was not a terrorist. Martin McGuinness was a freedom fighter. He was also a political prisoner, a negotiator, a peacemaker, a healer."

The Sinn Fein leader also insisted it was not the case that Mr McGuinness had some sort of "road to Damascus conversion" and joined the political establishment.

He said throughout all he did during The Troubles and subsequent peace process, he was guided and stayed true to his "republican principles".

"There was not a bad Martin McGuinness or a good Martin McGuinness," said Mr Adams.

"There was simply a man, like every other decent man or woman, doing his best."

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph