Belfast Telegraph

Ian Paisley: Martin McGuinness' journey from gun to politics helped seal peace and British rule in Northern Ireland

By Ian Paisley

I wish to express my personal sympathy to the McGuinness family. His wife, children, grandchildren and wider family.

I know a little about personal loss of someone loved and that pain never really heals and the void never fills.

Martin McGuinness was the godfather of the Provisional IRA.

He was a ruthless leader, the man who not only spoke about the "cutting edge of the IRA" but the man who used that cutting edge.

Accounts differ, but he is recorded as being personally responsible for the deaths of dozens of people.

Growing up in the Northern Ireland of the 1970s and 1980s, he was a man who struck hatred and fear into the hearts of people and so he had the calibre and the clout to speak for and lead the IRA.

The vast majority of people, Catholic and Protestant, repudiated his actions and the victims of terror will never ever forget what has happened.

Unlike other leading republicans, he never pretended he wasn't in the IRA.

But then his war was over.

His journey took a new direction.

No one really knows why. Perhaps he ultimately knew his organisation could never win the conflict and he had to make peace.

He moved from the godfather to the man in government.

The necessary man who could bring the republican movement over a rubicon. One that they could never go back on and one that cemented British rule in Northern Ireland. That journey saw him accepting the handshake of the Queen and he called out dissident republicans as "traitors to the cause". And he was a man who accepted the legitimacy of the police.

A complex journey, a complex life. As a Christian man, I must take a view that every soul matters to our maker and we have a duty to witness God's love to all. That is not a message to forget but a message more about how to go forward in life's journey - and that journey for Martin McGuinness was one that changed considerably.

How a person's life ends is more important than how it begins. And his journey ended in a far better place, possibly to the point where history may be kinder to him than anyone could have expected.

My father and Martin McGuinness ultimately had a remarkable journey together and one that cemented in place a foundation for a settled and peaceful Northern Ireland. Let's hope we can now build on that foundation. Let's see if we can make the next generation stay on that onward journey to a new and better place as a community.

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