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Unionists split over Ian Paisley 'thank you' message to Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness

By Jonathan Bell

Ian Paisley may have been effusive in his praise for Martin McGuinness's following his retirement announcement, but others in unionism have been less generous toward the ex-IRA man.

Mr Paisley's "thank you" contrasted to the view of fellow DUP members. Nigel Dodds, who said while acknowledging the influence he had in the political developments his IRA past could not be forgotten.

He said it was important to acknowledge and thank Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley's late father for the "tremendous work they did together and in deed all that were involved in developing a political and peace process and important to do that".

"I wish Martin McGuinness well in his retirement and on his battle against illness. I do think there will be people who will remember the other aspect of Martin McGuinness's life," he said.

"He has said he has no regrets about his earlier participating in violence and all of that. Today all the victims needs to be remembered and I only wish that the latter political and more progressive approach had been adopted much sooner. More lives could have been saved."

East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell, said: "The latter part of his involvement was positive in the sense of trying to reach accommodation to move things forward, what we must also not do is ignore the former which was not positive progressive and unfortunately was much the opposite and involved death and destruction from an organisation which he was a leader of."

Following the retirement announcement, DUP leader Arlene Foster said: "Martin McGuinness and I have had our political differences and we come from very different angles of vision. When I was elected as First Minister in January 2016 I indicated that alongside him I was determined to work with him for the betterment of all the people of Northern Ireland in order to build a better future for everyone.

"While the current political situation is not what any of us would wish and there is much work to be done to return stable government to Northern Ireland I nonetheless value the good things achieved by the outgoing Executive and the contribution made by Mr McGuinness to it.

"As Deputy First Minister for almost a decade Martin McGuinness has been a major figure at Stormont.  While never forgetting the past I believe the work at Stormont provided the foundations for our relative peace today.

"Despite all that has happened I wish Martin McGuinness a speedy recovery and that he and his wife are able to enjoy time with their family away from the relentless focus of public life."

Former First Minister Peter Robinson: "I pray that he overcomes his health challenges and has the time to do the simple things I know he loves - like spending time with his grandchildren, fishing and watching football."

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt, in his response said: "Martin McGuinness’s politics are very different from mine but there is no escaping that he has been a major influence over the ten years since the DUP decided to work with Sinn Fein in Stormont Castle.  His decision to take up arms in the IRA and terrorise the people of Northern Ireland has left a legacy we are still struggling to come to terms with.

“That said he is clearly unwell and I wish for him and his family what I would wish for myself and mine.”

While Jim Allister said Mr McGuinness "should reflect on what he did in this community".

"Of course he has shown no remorse, no regret, no apology," he told the BBC.

"Sinn Fein always want a one-way process where unionism always apologises for everything and they apologise for nothing.

"So given where McGuinness has come from and what he did on the way, that he needs to step up and be the one to recognise the unnecessary murder that was inflicted on this community by the IRA before anyone is expected to respond in positive terms.

"I acknowledge that latterly Martin McGuinness was pursing the latest phase in the Sinn Fein struggle.

"They were saying last week they think this phase is over unless someone fills there boots with more concessions and they are on to the next phase.

"Stormont was never for Sinn Fein an end in itself."

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