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What I say to the people who have criticised me ...

By Rev David Latimer

Not everybody I bump into speaks so glowingly of Martin, and the charge that I am fawning over a former IRA commander has been levelled against me.

Others were quick to proclaim that I was naive and being used by Sinn Fein.

Those who frowned on my friendship with Martin seem to think I have conveniently forgotten about Martin's role in the IRA campaign of terror and that I am devoid of feelings for the bereaved and injured.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I do not expect families who have suffered at the hands of the IRA to let go of their grief, which is human, natural and understandable.

Nor do I wish, in any way, to cause further hurt to victims and survivors of IRA violence by appearing to airbrush Martin's past from the narrative.

The truth is that the harsh facts relating to anyone's life can never ever be erased from the canvas.

I understand entirely why many people have mixed feelings about Martin and my friendship with him.

At the same time, though, I cannot disregard his achievements or those of Ian Paisley, for example, who changed immeasurably and compromised sufficiently to let a new future begin.

In the current global context of uncertainty, the transformation that has occurred in Northern Ireland since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 is evidence that differences can be set aside in the interests of the common good and that, where the will exists, true change is possible.

Belfast Telegraph

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