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Martin McGuinness: Thousands turn out to take boy from Bogside home for final time

By Donna Deeney

Draped in the Irish tricolour, the coffin carrying the remains of Martin McGuinness was hoisted on to the shoulders of his two sons and two brothers as the snow fell in Londonderry's Bogside.

The former Deputy First Minister's deep love of this corner of Derry was reciprocated when around 2,000 people joined his widow Bernadette, sons Emmet and Fiachra and daughters Grainne and Fionnuala to take him home for the final time.

The 66-year-old passed away in the early hours of yesterday morning at Altnagelvin Hospital surrounded by his family following a short illness.

While Mr McGuinness lived his life in the public gaze, his family remained in the background, rarely seen and even less heard.

But yesterday their private grief and sorrow at the loss of their husband, father and grandfather was being played out in front of the media and the toll it was taking on them was etched on their faces.

Applause rippled through the crowds as the cortege left the Chapel of Rest in William Street, where Mr McGuinness's family and closest friends were joined by Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown and Fr Michael Canny for private prayers.

Moving along the Lecky Road to the Bogside and Brandywell republican memorial, where a large tricolour was flying at half-mast, the procession halted and the crowds fell silent.

The only sound was the shutters of Press photographers vying for that perfect image. Even the noise of traffic was absent as diversions had been put in place.

Senior figures from Sinn Fein including party president Gerry Adams and northern leader Michelle O'Neill were among those who helped carry the coffin as the procession made its way from William Street to his home in Westland Terrace.

This community was already in mourning after the sudden death of Brandywell-born Derry City footballer Ryan McBride.

That was evident from the large flag at half-mast placed on top of Free Derry Wall in the club's red and white colours.

Along the streets shops pulled down their shutters and staff came outside as the cortege made the slow journey, among them the staff and volunteers of the recently reopened Free Derry Museum in Glenfada Park.

A book of condolence has been opened at the museum, which tells the story of Bloody Sunday... it had been hoped Martin McGuinness would officially open the venue.

Bloody Sunday Trust spokesman Tony Doherty, whose father was among the 14 killed by paratroopers, said: "Martin was a true statesman and someone who took risks for people but never forgot his roots in Derry's Bogside.

"When we officially open the museum we will remember Martin at that event, and his invaluable support for the museum. His support and friendship will never be forgotten."

Many in the crowd were all too aware of the significance of the historic moment unfolding and were recording it on mobile phones and tablets.

Others hugged each other with tears in their eyes, barely able to comprehend that this man they loved, respected and looked up to had died.

Denis Harkin summed up the sentiment of many, saying: "This is an unbearable loss, not just for Derry but for the whole of Ireland, and the worth of Martin McGuinness may not be recognised by all now, but some day it will be."

One man who did recognise the contribution to peace and who was also walking along the streets of this most republican of strongholds was the Presbyterian Minister David Latimer.

He said: "I am walking in a funeral procession that I didn't believe I would be for a long time, but Martin's illness took over his life.

"I was with him a week ago in the intensive care ward and we held hands and I shared with him a conversation I had with Eileen Paisley a few days earlier.

"I said: 'Martin, Ian and you did great things'. And he whispered to me: 'David, they are great people'.

"We said a prayer and I committed him into the safe hands of a great God who cares for all and who rejects none.

"While not everybody will view it the way I am sharing it, we have to focus on the man he became. He finished his life well and that's how the Bible tells us that's how we should all be finishing. The Bible tells us 'he who endures his life to the end will be saved', and Martin endured and persevered and let nothing halt him on that journey to make this place better."

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