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To deny Martin McGuinness was a terrorist is to belittle his long walk to peace

By Alf McCreary

The funeral service for Martin McGuinness in Derry was a remarkable tribute to a remarkable man. His death is a reminder to all of the frailty of life.

Just over three months ago, he was preparing to visit China with Arlene Foster. At that point, he was a man of influence and political power, with much still to give.

This week he died, and his death is a tragedy for his wife and family, just like a death in any family from whatever side of the community.

Mr McGuinness's funeral was impressive partly because of the range of people who attended it, including Arlene Foster.

In any other jurisdiction, this would have been an obvious step.

Sadly, however, Northern Ireland is not normal yet, and in this province, where symbolism is so potent, Mrs Foster's presence at Martin McGuinness's funeral was symbolically powerful.

Mrs Foster has gone through a painful experience in the past three months, and to some extent she is the author of her own misfortune.

However, one wonders what her private thoughts are about the early death of a man with whom she worked closely, yet whose dark past was abhorrent to her and her community.

In the presence of death, our private thoughts may not be those which others might expect.

The attendance of ex-US President Bill Clinton, former Irish President Mary McAleese and others at the funeral was another powerful reminder of the many people on all sides who had worked so hard to bring Northern Ireland to where it is today, and what we may lose if the bitter divisions at Stormont are not healed.

The presence of Gerry Adams was yet another powerful reminder of how far we have come along the road of politics, but his graveside oration for his old friend showed the darkness and double-think of the politics that still entraps us so much today.

Let's give Mr Adams the benefit of the doubt after he appealed at the graveside to his unionist "neighbours" while almost in the same breath asserting that Mr McGuinness was "not a terrorist but a freedom fighter".

That is precisely the language which sticks in the throats of Protestants of all political backgrounds, and particularly for the victims and families who suffered from the Provisional IRA's violence, in which the early Martin McGuinness was involved up to the neck.

To deny that he was a terrorist is to do an injustice to his courage in walking the long and hard road to peace.

Mr McGuinness was a man of war and peace, and it was to his credit that he, unlike others, had the courage not to deny it.

The majority of the tributes to him were well-balanced, though some of those coming from the South somewhat glazed over the terror which Mr McGuinness and his colleagues created in the North for people of my generation, who are old enough to remember how bad it was.

The short tribute from the Presbyterian Church, and the possibly more pointed one from the Church of Ireland, rightly maintained that balance, though surprisingly the Methodist tribute said nothing about McGuinness's dark path.

That was a significant omission, and I wonder what the reaction to that would have been from my old friend, the late Gordon Wilson, that staunch Methodist whose daughter was killed in the Enniskillen bomb, the perpetrators of which must have been known to Mr McGuinness.

In an attempt to show Christian charity, we cannot gloss over the past, for by doing so we diminish the huge effort in moving from the darkness to the light.

However, we all must move on, and we must believe that a human being can rise nobly to a level beyond the murky depths of their past.

Martin McGuinness showed us how to do this, and we are the better for it.

There is still much to be done, and it is now up to others to follow his example.

Fr Canny's homily was a masterclass

One of the most difficult challenges for any speaker is to deliver a funeral oration, but the homily of Father Michael Canny at the funeral of Martin McGuinness was one of the best of its kind.

It was moving, yet balanced, and did not shirk the reality of the dead man's dark past, but also paid full tribute to his remarkable journey to peace.

Fr Canny eloquently summarised Martin McGuinness's complex personality and made us feel we knew something more about the human being behind the headlines than we had discovered previously.

Foster's welcome shows city's warmth

The BBC's The View broadcast an excellent live programme from Derry's walls on the night of the funeral.

Apart from the spat between Gregory Campbell and an exasperated Denis Bradley, there was the reminder from Bishop Donal McKeown that Londonderry is special.

He said the warmth of the reception given to Mrs Foster did not surprise him. If Derry can give such a lead, why can't Belfast and other places follow?

Don't judge Tebbit by harsh remarks

It is not for any of us to judge harshly the emotions of those who suffered terribly from the Troubles, though the very bitter reaction of Lord Tebbit to the death of Martin McGuinness will have shocked many people.

His words told me more about Lord Tebbit than Martin McGuinness.

Sadly, his remarks also showed the kind of hell he and his wife had to live through after the Brighton bomb.

That is beyond the comprehension of almost all of us, and we must view his remarks in that context.

Belfast Telegraph

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