Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Features

Picture of the week: Farewell to a foe who became a friend

It's the photograph that those of us who lived through the Troubles never thought we would see.

After paying a heartfelt public tribute to Ian Paisley following his death on September 12, Sinn Fein deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was among those who signed a book of condolence for his former adversary.

The two men may have been at opposite ends of the political spectrum and sworn foes throughout much of the dark days of the conflict, but they set aside their old hostilities to head up the power-sharing executive at Stormont.

The day after the former DUP First Minister died at the age of 88, Mr McGuinness called in to the Guildhall in Londonderry to pay his respects by signing the book of condolence.

He wrote: "In rising above old enmities, we pointed the way to a better and peaceful future.

"The peace process and I have lost a friend."

Perhaps the only hint of past rivalries came in the signing of his address, which Mr McGuinness referred to as Derry City.

His former arch-enemy, a staunch supporter of the name Londonderry, would have undoubtedly raised a cross eyebrow at that.

While Martin McGuinness was a former IRA commander and high-profile republican, Mr Paisley was a diehard unionist and firebrand fundamentalist Protestant preacher, who once said of Catholics: "They breed like rabbits and multiply like vermin."

The one-time DUP leader, nicknamed Dr No, was famed for bellowing 'never, never, never' as he rejected the Irish-Anglo Agreement in front of the City Hall in Belfast in 1985.

Those television images were replayed many times in the days following his death.

But in later years, to much amazement, his face beamed out from photographs and film, laughing and smiling alongside the deputy First Minister.

When the pair entered government together in 2007, they not only buried years of antagonism and bitterness, but their relationship became a symbol of the peace effort and a shared future, so much so they were dubbed 'the Chuckle Brothers'.

But while Mr McGuinness spoke of his sadness at losing a "friend", there were others who had a less rose-tinted view of his contribution to peace.

Former Alliance Party leader John Cushnahan said that while he sympathised with the family, he was astonished at the "rewriting" of Mr Paisley's role.

"While I welcome the fact that he ultimately embraced power sharing, it was too little too late and should not be used to excuse the pain and suffering that he inflicted on the people of Northern Ireland for the majority of his political life," he said.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph