Wednesday 22 November 2017

'Our friend earned this vast crowd...finish the work that is there to be done' - Bill Clinton pleas for Martin McGuinness' peace building to continue

Derry comes to a standstill as Martin McGuinness is laid to rest

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton speaks during the funeral of Northern Ireland's former deputy first minister Martin McGuinness at St Columba's Church, in Derry, Northern Ireland March 23, 2017. REUTERS/Niall Carson/Pool
Funeral of Martin McGuinness - Gerry Mooney
Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Sinn Feinn President Gerry Adams walks alongside the coffin of Martin McGuinness as it is carried through crowded streets REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Sinn Fein candidate Martin McGuinness, whose funeral will take place today Niall Carson/PA Wire
Fine Gael politician Simon Coveney arriving for the funeral Photo:Niall Carson/PA Wire
President Michael D Higgins Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
The coffin of Martin McGuinness is surrounded by mourners during his funeral in Derry REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
The coffin of Northern Ireland's former deputy first minister and ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness is carried down Westland Street into the Bogside ahead of his funeral. Photo Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Amy Molloy & Louise Kelly

Former US president Bill Clinton has made an impassioned plea for people to finish the peace building of Martin McGuinness.

While former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was a man who divided the opinion of many, people from both sides of the border united in grief this afternoon to bid a final farewell.

Thousands lined the streets outside Saint Columba's Church in his beloved Bogside, while many a familiar face gathered inside to pay their respects.

Former US President Bill Clinton received a rapturous applause as he entered the church, having had many kind words to say earlier in the week about Mr McGuinness and his role in the peace process.

Funeral of Martin McGuinness - Gerry Mooney
Funeral of Martin McGuinness - Gerry Mooney
Funeral of Martin McGuinness - Gerry Mooney
Funeral of Martin McGuinness - Gerry Mooney
Coffin on the way to the cemetery from the church - Funeral of Martin McGuinness
Arlene Foster and Bishop John McKeown arriving for the funeral of Northern Ireland's former deputy first minister and ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Mr Clinton and ex-Democratic Unionist Stormont first ministers Peter Robinson and Arlene Foster were among those attending Thursday's requiem mass.

Looking down on a coffin draped in an Irish Tricolour, the former US president, who was central to the Good Friday Agreement negotiations, implored today's leaders to pick up where Mr McGuinness left off.

"He persevered and he prevailed. He risked the wrath of his comrades and the rejection of his adversaries," Mr Clinton said.

"He made honourable compromises and was strong enough to keep them and came to be trusted because his word was good.

A mourner holds flowers during Martin McGuinness's funeral, at St Columba's Church REUTERS/Phil Noble
A mourner holds flowers during Martin McGuinness's funeral, at St Columba's Church REUTERS/Phil Noble

"And he never stopped being who he was. A good husband, a good father, a follower of the faith of his father and mother and a passionate believer in a free, secure, self-governing Ireland.

"The only thing that happened was that he shrank the definition of 'us' and expanded the definition of 'them'."

Mr Clinton added: "Our friend earned this vast crowd today. Even more, he earned the right to ask us to honour his legacy by our living. To finish the work that is there to be done."

Mr Clinton spoke briefly with the McGuinness family after his passionate eulogy and touched the coffin as he walked by.

In his homily, which was eloquently read, Father Michael Canny alluded to the ex-IRA commander's "legacy", like many others who have paid tribute to the Derry man since he passed away following a short battle with illness.

"Well, if you seek Martin McGuinness’s monument, his legacy – look around you," Father Canny began.

"Look not at the beauty of this Saint Columba’s Church, which was such an integral and important part of Martin’s life. 

"Look, instead, at the people gathered in this church, to say farewell to a man who was such a proud member of this community, the person who came to be a widely respected leader of this community, someone who has been acknowledged in recent days as a politician who spent year after year moving this community towards peace."

DUP leader Arlene Foster, a woman whom Mr McGuinness shared a somewhat frosty relationship with in recent months, was also in attendance, alongside other prominent figures such as President Michael D. Higgins and former Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

Friends, family and colleagues took turns to carry his coffin, which was draped in the Irish Tricolour, through the streets of Long Tower.

Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams, Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O'Neill each helped together to carry the remains of their republican friend, who achieved so much for their political party.

"He was a true gent of Irish politics," colleague MLA Gerry Kelly said earlier in the week.

The atmosphere was one of mourning, but there was also a hint of defiance,and a sense that people wanted to celebrate his life.

Applause accompanied the procession on the final stretch of his journey to St Columba's.

"Presence of political rivals and opponents is the most eloquent testimony to the memory of Martin McGuinness," said Fr Canny.

From IRA commander, to peacemaker, to politician, his life was not free from complications.

"Martin was a complex man. He was born into a community where faith, Catholicism and Nationalism were intertwined. He was a man of simple tastes who ascended to the political summit.

"By any standards, Martin McGuinness was a remarkable man and his life was a remarkable journey. The values he had, the principles he championed are still very much alive."

Addressing his wife Bernie, and the rest of the McGuiness family, Fr Canny said "a big figure" had been taken from their life, but assured that the Bogside community would continue to support them in the challenging times ahead.

Perhaps the biggest tribute, as summed up during the service, was that twenty years ago, the presence of some of the people gathered to mourn his death would have been unthinkable.

Presbyterian Rev David Latimer said he had a "heavy heart" but also reflected on Martin McGuinness' "big heart".

"I look forward to meeting Martin McGuinness again in the future," he said, after speaking in Irish.

"Martin McGuinness has bequeathed to us a better place to live," he added.

After the funeral mass, his body was taken to City Cemetery, where he was finally laid to rest.

Online Editors

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News