Saturday 29 April 2017

Heavy security at Dublin Airport as Bill Clinton arrives for McGuinness funeral

Former US President Bill Clinton arrives in Dublin ahead of the funeral of Martin McGuinness. Pic: Mark Condren
Former US President Bill Clinton arrives in Dublin ahead of the funeral of Martin McGuinness. Pic: Mark Condren
Former US President Bill Clinton arrives in Dublin ahead of the funeral of Martin McGuinness. Pic: Mark Condren
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

Former US President Bill Clinton arrived in Dublin this morning and was escorted from the airport to travel to Derry for the funeral of Martin McGuinness.

Delta flight DL044 touched down from New York at 8.19am and President Clinton was brought out a back gate of Terminal 2 under high security.

The President was in a blacked out vehicle surrounded by his own security, and was flanked by a number of garda SUVs and motorcycles.

As the motorcade made it to the main road beyond the airport boundary garda sirens could be heard as President Clinton first went into Dublin city before beginning his journey north.

Following McGuinness's death on Monday, President Clinton paid tribute to him and his role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland.

He said he and his wife Hillary were "saddened" to learn of the death.

Members of the public sign the book of condolences for Martin McGuinness at the Mansion House in Dublin. Photo: Collins
Members of the public sign the book of condolences for Martin McGuinness at the Mansion House in Dublin. Photo: Collins

"When he decided to fight for peace, Martin was calm, courageous, and direct. And when he gave his word, that was as good as gold," he said.

"As Sinn Fein’s chief negotiator, his integrity and willingness to engage in principled compromise were invaluable in reaching the Good Friday Agreement. In the years that followed, he played an even more important role in ensuring that the peace would last—personally overseeing the arms decommissioning, joining the new government as the first Education Minister, and later serving as Deputy First Minister, and doing it all with a sense of humor and fairness that inspired both his friends and former foes," he added.

"My lasting memory of him will be the pride he took in his efforts to improve disadvantaged schools in Unionist and Protestant communities. He believed in a shared future, and refused to live in the past, a lesson all of us who remain should learn and live by.  May he rest in peace," the President commented.

Earlier today, another former US president, Barack Obama, sent his condolences to the family and friends of Mr McGuinness as thousands of mourners are expected at his funeral today in Co Derry.

Michelle O’Neill and Arlene Foster yesterday. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Michelle O’Neill and Arlene Foster yesterday. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Mr Obama said that the former deputy leader of Northern Ireland had a "persistent belief" in a better future for the people of Northern Ireland.

"I send my condolences to the family and many friends of Martin McGuinness, a man who had the wisdom and courage to pursue peace and reconciliation for his people.

"His leadership was instrumental in turning the page on a past of violence and conflict that he knew all too well.

"In our own meetings, I was always struck by his good humor and persistent belief in a better future for the people of Northern Ireland. May Martin rest in the peace that he pursued in life, and may his example inspire others to follow a path of reconcilliation."

Tony Blair and ex-Northern Ireland first minister Peter Robinson are set to join mourners at the funeral.

In a hugely symbolic move, Arlene Foster will also attend the funeral of Mr McGuinness as the former deputy first minister is laid to rest.

The DUP leader will take her place alongside dignitaries from across Ireland, the UK and beyond in paying respects to the one-time IRA commander turned peace-making politician.

President Michael D Higgins and his predecessor Mary McAleese will also attend the requiem Mass, as will Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire will represent the UK government in the heart of Mr McGuinness's beloved Bogside neighbourhood in Derry.

Former Democratic Unionist leader Mr Robinson is also expected at the funeral.

Read more: Martin McGuinness: Proud IRA man hoped history would judge political legacy fairly

Thousands are expected to bring parts of Derry to a standstill as people say farewell to Mr McGuinness (66), who died in the early hours of Tuesday morning after a short illness.

Yesterday, Mr McGuinness's legacy was remembered at Stormont and in Westminster.

At UK prime minister's questions, Theresa May said she could never condone his violent past, but also reflected on his "indispensable" role in securing peace.

At a special session of the Stormont Assembly, Mr McGuinness's Sinn Féin successor Michelle O'Neill paid an emotional tribute, while Ms Foster acknowledged that Northern Ireland would "never see his like again".

Ms O'Neill told the Assembly her heart was broken yet bursting with pride.

"The legacy that Martin wished was for a better future based on equality and measured by the joy and laughter of all of our children," she said.

"So on behalf of Sinn Féin I rededicate our party to completing his life's work and to living through his legacy."

Peace

Ms Foster said Mr McGuinness's legacy was "complex and challenging".

She said his death was "hugely difficult" for victims of the IRA but said to many nationalists and republicans he was a "leader, friend or mentor".

The former first minister added: "It is precisely because of his past, because of his involvement with the IRA in the 1970s and 1980s, because of his influence within those circles, that he was able to play the role he played in bringing the republican movement towards using peaceful and democratic means and, because of all of that, I doubt we will ever see his like again."

UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the Commons: "Martin played an immeasurable role in bringing about peace in Northern Ireland, and it's that peace we all want to endure."

In Derry, well-wishers queued outside the McGuinness family home in the Bogside area to pay their respects.

Mr McGuinness, who died from a rare heart condition, completed an extraordinary political journey from an IRA leader in Derry to sharing power and a remarkable friendship with his erstwhile foe, DUP leader Dr Ian Paisley.

He also struck up a warm relationship with Queen Elizabeth II, whom he praised for her contribution to peace.

She is to send a personal message to Mr McGuinness's family.

Read more: Martin McGuinness: The reaction in quotes...

Mr McGuinness's last major act as a politician was to pull down the power-sharing Executive at Stormont when he resigned as deputy first minister in January in protest at the DUP's handling of a green energy scandal.

With Stormont still without a power-sharing Executive or new speaker in the wake of the subsequent snap election, traditional protocols were overridden to enable MLAs to assemble to mark his death.

People lined up to sign a book of condolences in the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings.

On Tuesday night, thousands of people gathered to pay tribute at a candlelit vigil in the republican heartland of west Belfast.

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