Belfast Telegraph

Martin McGuinness 'missed by some unionists' as Sinn Fein man's portrait set to be unveiled at Stormont

By Suzanne Breen

Unionist and nationalist politicians will attend the official unveiling of a portrait of former Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at Stormont tomorrow.

Today marks the first anniversary of Mr McGuinness's death. Former Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt told the Belfast Telegraph he would be present at the event.

Despite its current strained relationship with Sinn Fein following the collapse of the Stormont talks, it is understood that DUP MLAs will attend the unveiling.

Portraits have previously been commissioned of former DUP and UUP first ministers Ian Paisley and David Trimble, and former SDLP deputy first ministers Seamus Mallon and Mark Durkan.

Dr Paisley's striking portrait by Irish artist David Nolan hangs on the first floor of Parliament Buildings, giving the impression that he is watching over The Great Hall.

Mr Nesbitt said last night that Mr McGuinness was "missed" by some unionists including himself.

"Martin McGuinness had a determination to try to make devolution work that is not universal within republicanism," he said.

"For that, he is missed by some sectors of unionism including myself. I found him a man of political integrity.

"Martin McGuinness wanted to make Northern Ireland work.

"His thinking might have been that achieving that would make us more attractive to Dublin. But it doesn't matter if his motivation was to facilitate a united Ireland, the fact remains that he really did want to be constructive.

"And regardless of how our positions might differ on the constitutional future, Northern Ireland needs politicians who want it to work because at the minute our health service and education system aren't working and that's where our focus should be."

Mr Nesbitt said it was "too simplistic" to argue that had Mr McGuinness lived the Stormont institutions would now be up and running, and pointed out that it was the former Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister's resignation letter last year which had brought about the collapse.

Mr Nesbitt said he strongly disagreed with Mr McGuinness's insistence that the IRA's armed campaign had been inevitable given the political circumstances facing the nationalist community.

"Everybody had an individual choice as to whether to pick up a gun or a bomb. But while we may never agree on a narrative of the past, that shouldn't prevent us working together to build a different future," he said.

Mr Nesbitt said Mr McGuinness's failure to "apologise or show contrition" for IRA violence had understandably angered victims.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood last night paid tribute to Mr McGuinness. "On Martin's anniversary, the SDLP's thoughts are with his family and friends - and also with his colleagues in Sinn Fein," he said.

"Over the course of the past year, Martin's presence will have been missed by many. In political corridors the generosity he displayed in developing the relationships he built with unionism has been particularly missed.

"As a fellow Derry man, I know that people in this city will today also extend their thoughts and prayers to Bernie, his children Grainne, Fionnuala, Fiachra and Emmet and all his extended family."

The McGuinness family are asking the public to support a cross-border charity walk in his memory on Sunday.

The Chieftain's Walk will make its way from Glenowen in Derry to Grianan Fort in Donegal to raise funds for the North West Cancer Centre.

A book, Martin McGuinness: The Man I Knew by Jude Collins, will be launched in Derry, Belfast and Dublin this week.

It includes interviews with a range of individuals who knew Mr McGuinness including Gerry Adams, US Senator George Mitchell, and Eileen Paisley.

Mr McGuinness died following a short battle with the rare genetic disease amyloidosis.

Belfast Telegraph

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