Belfast Telegraph

Martin McGuinness funeral: 'Presence of political rivals and opponents most eloquent testimony to his memory'

'Martin McGuinness was the IRA commander who became a mainstay of the peace process'

By Claire Williamson

Martin McGuinness' funeral has heard how the attendance of political rivals and opponents is the "most eloquent testimony" to the Sinn Fein veteran's memory.

Mr McGuinness passed away early on Tuesday at the age of 66 following a short battle with illness.

<< Follow live updates from Martin McGuinness' funeral Live: Martin McGuinness funeral>>

Dignitaries from across Ireland and beyond are in the city for the funeral including American President Bill Clinton, John Hume and Enda Kenny.

DUP leader Arlene Foster is also attending the funeral of the former deputy First Minister.

The funeral is taking place amid a huge security operation as thousands line the streets in remembrance.

Read more: Martin McGuinness funeral: Homily in full

Father Michael Canny said: "Well, if you seek Martin McGuinness’s monument, his legacy – look around you. Look not at the beauty of this Saint Columba’s Church, which was such an integral and important part of Martin’s life. 

"Look, instead, at the people gathered in this church, to say farewell to a man who was such a proud member of this community, the person who came to be a widely respected leader of this community, someone who has been acknowledged in recent days as a politician who spent year after year moving this community towards peace.

"There are people in this church today whose presence would have been unthinkable only a generation ago.  They have forged working relationships with Martin McGuinness; they have built friendships with him; they have occupied Stormont’s benches alongside him.  Some have even sat in government with him. 

"You are all very, very welcome.  The presence of those political rivals and opponents among you, who have come to pay their respects this afternoon, is the most eloquent testimony to the memory of Martin McGuinness. 

When you seek his monument, YOU - by your presence - are his monument

The packed congregation heard how Mr McGuinness was a "complex man" who only felt at home in his beloved Bogside.

"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 ate many formal dinners but was happiest when eating cabbage and bacon, or a piece of salmon caught by his friend James Quinn.  Martin the Sinn Féin leader who first shared power, then became friends, with the late Dr Ian Paisley;

Martin was the IRA commander who became a mainstay of the peace process

Fr Canny told the congregation he had had many conversations with Mr McGuinness over the years and that he "knew only too well" how many struggled with his IRA past.

He said: "Republicans were not blameless, and many people right across the community find it difficult to forgive and impossible to forget.

He said: "During this past month, Lord Trimble wrote to Martin telling him that he had been indispensable in bringing about devolution after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.  Former First Minister Arlene Foster said on Tuesday that Martin’s contribution to the political and peace process had been “significant” and had “helped build the relative peace we now enjoy”, and yesterday in the assembly chamber said “I doubt that we will ever see his like again”. 

"In January, as the seriousness of Martin’s illness was becoming more and more obvious, Ian Paisley Jnr. thanked him, saying his “remarkable journey” had “not only saved lives but made the lives of countless people better”.

"The word ‘journey’ has been used by many people in recent days to describe Martin’s transition from man of war to man of peace.  The word journey is also used frequently to describe the believer as he or she lives life on the way to union with God."

Fr Canny said told how Mr McGuinness' journey had brought him to the path of peace and that he was a "remarkable man and his life was a remarkable journey. The values he had, the principles he championed are still very much alive".

He said: "On that journey many years ago, Martin realised that the time for peace had come and he pursued the peace process with relentless energy for the rest of his days, until illness finally struck him down. 

"In the course of that journey he encountered many obstacles but he remained resolute.  In conversation he often repeated that there was no other way, we had to continually work for the building of peace and a better future for all.  Despite many setbacks he never became disheartened.  

"We come here to this church this afternoon because Martin was also a man of faith.  He believed in God and his faith was important to him.  Prayer was very important to him.  In Saint’s Paul’s second letter to Timothy, read in our second reading, the apostle said the time of his departure had come and he prepared to face the Lord, “the righteous judge”.  He had finished the race.  He had kept the faith."

"Martin, too, has finished the race.  He, too, kept the faith.  He, too, has come face to face with the righteous judge who judges all fairly."

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