Belfast Telegraph

Martin McGuinness IRA volunteer headstone inscription angers unionists

By Leona O'Neill

Unionists reacted with anger yesterday after republicans unveiled Former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness's gravestone with an inscription referring to his IRA past.

The dedication on Mr McGuinness's Celtic cross gravestone reads 'Oglach Martin McGuinness, Oglaigh na h-Eireann, MP, MLA, Minister'.

Oglach is the term used by the IRA to describe its volunteers.

Mr McGuinness was described as "one of the greatest republican leaders Ireland has ever seen" as the memorial was unveiled by Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, as well as Foyle MLAs Raymond McCartney and Elisha McCallion.

Mr McGuinness's sons Emmett and Fiachra and daughters Fionnuala and Grainne were present at the ceremony, which took place at the Sinn Fein Easter commemoration in Derry City Cemetery.

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie said those who believed Mr McGuinness had "undergone a transformation" had been "duped" and that his headstone reflected that he "hadn't moved on from his IRA past".

"I am not surprised. Martin McGuinness may well have become a statesman, he may well have become a politician in the eyes of many, but the reality was that he was, until the day he died, an IRA volunteer," he said.

"What they have put on his headstone trumps everything that people think about this man. Martin McGuinness didn't move on from his IRA background, he remained linked to the IRA until the day he died and the headstone clearly reflects that past.

"He was an IRA man and he is being remembered as an IRA man. Anybody who bought into his transformation from gunman to so-called statesman has been duped in some way.

"What is on his headstone is exactly what I would expect to see on his headstone.

"People who have lost loved ones to the IRA will see what I see, that he was a member of a terrorist organisation and he supported them until the day he died."

Mr McGuinness passed away on March 21. He was 66.

He had been suffering from a rare heart condition.

In the wake of his death controversy has resurfaced over his IRA past.

East Londonderry DUP MP Gregory Campbell said the inscription on Mr McGuinness's headstone was "lauding his murderous past" and a "permanent insult to the victims of IRA violence".

"Given the lengths that people went to at the actual funeral to try and elevate Martin McGuinness and try to allot him the status of a statesman, I think that most people will now see what the real and lasting tribute really is," he said.

"What happened at the funeral was just a day and a moment in time, the headstone is something that will be there for generations."

Speaking yesterday, Ms McDonald paid tribute to Mr McGuinness. "Our great leader and friend lies here now," she said.

"Martin McGuinness, whose heart came alive and kept faith with the Bogside.

"Martin McGuinness, a faithful son of Ireland. Martin McGuinness who fought, who made peace and who will never be forgotten. Martin led from the front, he took risks for freedom and risks to build the peace.

"We are stronger because of him, braver because of him, closer to reconciliation and freedom."

Belfast Telegraph

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