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How Adams milked the funeral of Martin McGuinness

The Sinn Fein president produced, directed and played the star part in a production of pure political propaganda, writes Eoghan Harris

Let's pray that the canonisation of Martin McGuinness promotes good politics in Northern Ireland. Because it has delivered a deadly blow to democratic politics in the Republic of Ireland.

In Northern Ireland we must hope that the benign, lasting image is of Arlene Foster in a Roman Catholic church with a tricoloured coffin containing the mortal remains of a leader of the IRA that had once tried to murder her father.

But in the Republic the political retina will only retain the moral squalor of watching Gerry Adams patronisingly ushering the Taoiseach along the front row of the pews.

Adams produced and directed the McGuinness funeral as pure political propaganda. Thanks to a compliant RTE, and most of the Irish media, the show was a box office sell-out.

The message was simple and deadly and reinforced the recurring IRA lesson of 1916. Start out as an IRA killer and end up as a respected statesman.

Adams also played the star part in the production. He always relished the role of serial coffin carrier, head to the side of the casket like the face of death. He got the star spot at the graveside, too, standing at a podium with the Sinn Fein logo flanked by his two familiars, Michelle O'Neill and Mary Lou McDonald, who applauded the great leader in a dutiful display of adulation, risibly reminiscent of Kim Jong-un's big-hat generals. In contrast to Adams milking McGuinness's funeral, Foster's attendance at St Columba's Church was a brave act of good authority.

The funeral Mass provided a perfect platform for a major statement of moral clarity by the churchmen present.

They did not lack a model. Brendan Kelly, Bishop of Achonry, in his honest homily at Eamonn Casey's funeral, did not hide from hard truths.

He spoke about Casey's 25 years of quiet, humble penitence. But he also spoke of Casey's betrayal of his son, his Church, his people.

In contrast, the clergymen in Derry praised McGuinness but never mentioned the victims of his IRA units. Three in particular should have provided them with poignant reflections.

Joanne Mathers (29), a census taker, married with a two-year-old son, shot dead in April 1981 as she collected forms.

Frank Hegarty, lured home in 1986 to have his head taped so his eyes would stay in his head when his brains were blown out.

Patsy Gillespie (42), strapped over a bomb detonated by remote control in October 1990 so that his widow Kathleen had only a hand to bury.

The churchmen, like all the apologists last week, waxed lyrical about the warrior turned peacemaker.

True, McGuinness made the bandage. But before he made the bandage he made the wound. McGuinness had no moral right to start a murder campaign because some Catholics were not able to get houses or had limited voting rights.

The blacks of America had far more reason to resort to terrorism. But most choose to follow the peaceful civil rights path of Martin Luther King.

But whatever sliver of justification McGuinness had after Bloody Sunday in 1972 (in which his role was opaque), he had none whatsoever by 1974.

Sunningdale marked the end of discrimination against Roman Catholics and nationalists and after that nothing justified even one killing.

McGuinness continued to wage what was glorified as a 'war' but was more of a murder campaign. Most of the victims were civilians and Protestant part-time members of the UDR.

Contrary to claims by his apologists, McGuinness did not make a major moral choice to become a peacemaker. He and the Provisional IRA only called off the campaign when the IRA was a sieve of spies. But to his credit, once he committed himself to politics he showed stoic courage in confronting the republican rearguard.

Contrary to what the Paisleys said, he had no Pauline conversion, and he never said sorry to families of his victims.

Consequently, we can be sure that Trimble and Foster had to grit their teeth before paying their respects. They made the right noises for peace.

But we in the Republic did not have to make these noises. Down here we should have minded our democracy.

When McGuinness died Irish politicians should have given him his due, but also marked the moral cards of the rising generation. They dodged their duty and climbed on to the green bandwagon in an orgy of nationalist necrophilia.

Enda Kenny and Micheal Martin can claim that protocol called for their presence at St Columba's Church in Derry. But what were Simon Coveney and Shane Ross doing there except electioneering?

The Republic's ambivalent response began earlier last week with this egregious statement by President Michael D Higgins: "As a political colleague of many years, and having participated together in the presidential election campaign of 2011 that brought us all over Ireland, Sabina and I have appreciated both Martin McGuinness's warmth and his unfailing courtesy."

Consider the cop-out phrase "political colleague". The President speaks as if he and McGuinness were debating buddies. But not a word about IRA victims in the Republic.

As commander-in-chief of the Irish Defence Forces, President Higgins failed to recall six gardai, a soldier and a prison officer murdered by the PIRA.

The main reason McGuinness got only 13% of the vote at the presidential election was because he was challenged about IRA crimes.

People also noted McGuinness's cold anger with Miriam O'Callaghan, famously caught by the Dublin Evening Herald headline: 'McGuinness goes ballistic at Miriam.'

Last week cowardly Irish politicians proved my contention that the consensus against violence in the Republic is a leaky consensus that becomes a flood as soon as Sinn Fein runs a propaganda funeral for a compliant RTE. Sinn Fein is grooming the Republic. The sweets come as two political tropes, packaged in bright green.

The first toxic trope is that of the 'warrior turned statesman', a constant invitation to idealistic young people to pursue violence because political precedent promises redemption.

The second trope is the 'peace process', a weaponising of words that twists them to mean the exact opposite. Using both these, Sinn Fein turned politicians and media into twin glove puppets last week.

In Northern Ireland it waved a pluralist flag to the world but still hides a green flag behind its back. In the Republic it used the death of McGuinness to get us to drop our guard against Provo propaganda.

Those who formed a political firing party for McGuinness's funeral gave Sinn Fein a new grip on the centre and put our children at the mercy of political psychopaths.

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