Wednesday 26 April 2017

'Peacemaker' McGuinness walked a path of brutality for three decades - we can't write that out of history

'In assessing the legacy of Mr McGuinness, political figures and commentators are engaging in the same type of selective amnesia that they displayed when commenting on the death of Ian Paisley - the other half of Northern Ireland's 'Chuckle Brothers'.'
'In assessing the legacy of Mr McGuinness, political figures and commentators are engaging in the same type of selective amnesia that they displayed when commenting on the death of Ian Paisley - the other half of Northern Ireland's 'Chuckle Brothers'.'

John Cushnahan

When Martin McGuinness died, leading political figures and commentators rushed to pass judgment on his political legacy. He was variously described as a "statesman of the Troubles", "a peacemaker" and a "man of reconciliation". When I heard these tributes, my immediate thoughts were with the families whose loved ones had been callously and brutally murdered by the organisation in which he had been a commander for three decades.

However, I became even more annoyed when several of these figures in their eulogies to him attempted to excuse his use of violence because he came from a deprived Catholic background whose community had been badly treated by the unionist majority since the foundation of the Northern Ireland state. While this is a factual description of his origins, it did not provide any moral justification or excuse for the violent path he chose to follow.

I shared the same background as Mr McGuinness and Gerry Adams. I was a working-class Catholic who was born in the 'pound Loney' in the lower Falls area of West Belfast. I lived in West Belfast throughout the 1960s and early 1970s when the Troubles began. I was involved in the campaign for civil rights. While some of my peers also joined the IRA, many supported the SDLP, and others such as myself chose the politics of reconciliation and together with protestants of similar views we supported the Alliance Party. We all made our respective choices.

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