McGuinness: We won’t see his likes again Jim Gibney. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Posted By: March 29, 2017

MARTIN McGuinness’s funeral reminded me of the funeral of Bobby Sands: the massive crowd, the queue of people outside the wake house, the media, the worldwide interest, the mood, sorrowful but immensely proud; an occasion not to be missed, an occasion to stand alongside Martin’s wife Bernie and their children, bewildered like us at his sudden passing.

An occasion to shoulder some of their pain, to ease some of their grief. An occasion to bring family, to bring children, to take photos to recall this very special day for this very special man.

To say, as I did of Bobby’s funeral – I was there on the momentous occasion of Martin’s funeral.

In 1981 the crowds came from all over Ireland to bury the hunger strikers with fury and feelings of vengeance in their hearts.

They came from all over Ireland for Martin’s funeral in shock but with peace in their hearts. Martin put that peace there.

Thirty-six years separated the funerals. The contrast so, so different. We buried the hunger strikers in the middle of a war.

We buried Martin in the midst of peace. A peace he made. An honorable peace that ended centuries of conflict.

At the funeral, I met two hunger strikers’ brothers – Raymond McCreesh’s brother, Malachy, and Thomas McElwee’s brother, Benny.

We spoke of their funerals, the tens of thousands of people who in 1981 stood with the prisoners and their families amidst much danger.

The people have never let Republicans down, despite the hardship of the war years; despite the uncertainty and challenges of making peace. They know when to be seen and counted. They were counted in their tens of thousands a few weeks ago when they voted and ended unionist majority rule after nearly 100 years. So much of that result was down to Martin McGuinness and the seamless quality of his five decades of leadership.

They were there for the world to see at Martin’s funeral.

They were there for Bernie and her children and to thank Bernie. Bernie and their four children were the worlds to Martin. Her love and support allowed Martin to be the leader he was.

To lead us. To lift us from the oppression of our lives as powerless second-class citizens in our own country. To let us feel the power we had as we resisted. To make us proud of ourselves as we fought for justice and freedom. There was only one Martin McGuinness, whether as IRA leader or peacemaker. Martin was a liberator with his words, his actions, his life. He made us feel 10 feet tall.

His leadership made the IRA the fighting force it was. I am glad the IRA leadership trusted him as it did. He knew its power, and he used it wisely for peace when the opportunity presented itself.

That is what happens in war. Ultimately, it takes leaders like Martin McGuinness, implicitly trusted, to negotiate peace.

He did so here with a just peace for the living, for all who died and endured so much hurt and pain and still do.

Such was the immense crowd that few could get near Martin’s coffin to touch it, so they spontaneously clapped him as the cortège passed.

I was overwhelmed. They were applauding a life in their service. Thanking him for giving his all for a better future for the people of Ireland.

Applause to for others who knew the worth and value of Martin McGuinness: serving and former taoisigh, serving and former Irish presidents, a serving chief constable, the Reverend Harold Good, the leader of the DUP and former leader, the leader of the SDLP, and Alliance Party, a former US president, the British secretary of state. The symbolic importance of their presence at Martin’s funeral – a former IRA commander and peace maker.

Their presence was deeply appreciated for Martin, his family, his community and above all for peace.

Gerry Adams, his life-long friend, and comrade, who will miss him so much, said in his graveside oration that Martin was a “freedom fighter” not a “terrorist” and he was.

He also said we would never see his likes again. And we will not.