Belfast Telegraph

Martin McGuinness made Northern Ireland better place, says IRA victim's cousin

By Brett Campbell

A Belfast man who lost a relative at the hands of the IRA in 1981 joined members of the public and local dignitaries - including the Queen's Lord Lieutenant - in signing books of condolence which opened at Belfast City Hall yesterday in honour of the late Martin McGuinness.

Paul Patrick (61) said it was important to acknowledge that Mr McGuinness and Ian Paisley both played a pivotal role in making Northern Ireland a better place.

"Being the age I am I have lived through the Troubles; the IRA killed my cousin in 1981," he said.

"My main emotions today are that if this small state had listened to the civil rights movement then we wouldn't be in this position and Martin McGuinness would not have had to join the IRA."

His cousin, George Joseph Hall (28), was found stabbed to death near his home in the Crumlin Gardens area of the city on July 12, 1981 just days before a similar killing in the same area.

Both murders are believed to have been carried out by republicans.

Mr Patrick, who is the child of a mixed marriage, said he has had to wrestle with these issues for decades. "Despite what I may have thought about Paisley in the 1970s, or the killers of my cousin, these two men are responsible for bringing us to this stage of the peace process."

Belfast Lord Mayor Brian Kingston was the first to sign the book as he joined council members in expressing his "deepest sympathies" to the McGuinness family.

But he emphasised that he did so with mixed feelings.

"He will be remembered for his involvement in violence and terrorism which took the lives of many hundreds of people in this city, across Northern Ireland and beyond," he said.

"But he will also be remembered for his involvement in the democratic process and his rejection of violence."

The DUP Lord Mayor described how the legacy of the former Deputy First Minister will always have dual association with "terrible suffering" and "peaceful and democratic politics" which must never be forgotten.

The Lord Lieutenant of Belfast, Mrs Fionnuala Jay-O'Boyle CBE, also signed the book of condolence in memory of the veteran republican at City Hall yesterday afternoon.

Deputy Lord Mayor Mary Ellen Campbell insisted that the council was right to honour Mr McGuinness who she said has taught her "great grace" and "leadership in the face of adversity".

"He also taught me to remember those who put out the hand of friendship and to accept it gracefully," she said.

"The man himself will be missed by many, but Martin the republican and Martin the activist will also be missed."

The Sinn Fein politician wept as she paid tribute to her late party colleague and refused to acknowledge that the council's decision to open the book would divide people.

"A man has died, I don't know why you would see that as divisive," she said.

"There are many people who will sign this book who have suffered."

Former Belfast Lord Mayor Niall O Donnghaile described Mr McGuinness's passing as devastating after he penned a tribute.

He said the country has lost a towering political figure whose skill will be missed in the ongoing Stormont talks.

He added: "There will be divergent views of Martin McGuinness and that's fair enough.

"I think Martin would say, 'I understand that' - but I wouldn't suggest that admiration and respect would simply come from one constituency or tradition."

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