Belfast Telegraph

Continuing peace work must be McGuinness's legacy, insists Bill Clinton

By Donna Deeney

The legacy of Martin McGuinness must be to finish the work of peace so we can all have a future together, former US President Bill Clinton said yesterday.

Mr Clinton, a key figure in the peace process in the 1990s, addressed mourners who packed St Columba's Church in Londonderry for the funeral of the former Deputy First Minister.

The congregation included DUP leader Arlene Foster and her party colleague Simon Hamilton, former First Minister Peter Robinson, the Secretary of State James Brokenshire and Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Singling out Mrs Foster for a special word of appreciation for her attendance, Mr Clinton said he recognised - as did most people in the church - that her life "had been marked in painful ways by the Troubles".

More:  Martin McGuinness funeral: They came from far and wide... but Arlene Foster made toughest journey

Even in death, he helped to bolster our faltering peace by bringing old foes together under the one roof

In his tribute to Martin McGuinness, Mr Clinton added: "He expanded the definition of 'us' and shrunk the definition of 'them'. If you really came here to celebrate his life, and to honour the contribution of the last chapter of it, you have to finish his work.

"Honour his legacy by our living and finish the work that's there to be done."

The funeral drew a huge number of people to St Columba's Church - the largest seen in the city since the funerals of the Bloody Sunday victims in 1972.

Donal McKeown, the Bishop of Derry, presided at the Mass where Fr Michael Canny, a personal friend of Mr McGuinness, was the chief celebrant. Representatives from the Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist Churches were also among the congregation, including Reverend David Latimer from First Derry Presbyterian, with whom Mr McGuinness forged a special friendship.

In his homily, Fr Canny said the legacy of Mr McGuinness was evident to anyone who looked around the congregation.

He said: "Look not at the beauty of this St Columba's Church, which was such an integral and important part of Martin's life. Look, instead, at the people gathered in this church, to say farewell to a man who was such a proud member of this community, the person who came to be a widely respected leader of this community, someone who has been acknowledged in recent days as a politician who spent year after year moving this community towards peace. There are people in this church today whose presence would have been unthinkable only a generation ago.

"They have forged working relationships with Martin McGuinness; they have built friendships with him; they have occupied Stormont's benches alongside him. Some have even sat in government with him.

"The presence of those political rivals and opponents among you, who have come to pay their respects this afternoon, is the most eloquent testimony to the memory of Martin McGuinness. When you seek his monument, you - by your presence - are his monument."

Fr Canny also reminded those gathered that as well as a political leader and public figure, Martin McGuinness was, in his own eyes, first and foremost a husband, father and grandfather. He said the chief mourners in the church were not the dignitaries but Mr McGuinness's widow Bernie, children and wider family circle.

The priest continued: "He (Mr McGuinness) was a man of simple tastes who ascended to the political summit. He visited the White House, Downing Street and Windsor Castle, but only ever felt at home in his beloved Bogside, returning to his wife and family at every opportunity. He shook hands with presidents, prime ministers, Taoisigh and even royalty, but was most comfortable walking with Bernie along the backshore at Buncrana, or wandering at Inch Island or up at Grianan, or along a river bank fishing.

"A big figure has been taken from your life and the life of your family, but be assured of our prayers and continuing support over the many difficult and challenging days ahead."

Following final prayers, Mr McGuinness's coffin was raised up on the shoulders of his two sons and brothers and walked out of the church to the same thunderous applause that followed it from his home. Burial took place at the City Cemetery where Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and the party's Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill gave a graveside oration.

Belfast Telegraph


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