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Analysis: Now we await the next tier of Sinn Féin 'visionaries'

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Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill, Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald speak at Derry City Cemetery after the funeral service of Martin McGuinness. Photo: PA

Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill, Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald speak at Derry City Cemetery after the funeral service of Martin McGuinness. Photo: PA

PA

Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill, Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald speak at Derry City Cemetery after the funeral service of Martin McGuinness. Photo: PA

Irish people do funerals better than many a nationality. And the final parting with Martin McGuinness was exemplary. The haunting Irish language refrains of Peadar Ó Riada's Cór Chúil Aodha, from Gaeltacht Mhúscraí, which is almost as far south from Derry as you can go, melted hearts.

The spontaneously generous ovation by mourners greeting the arrival of Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster bore much potential for healing. Could they have been saying: we know you suffered - just like us?

It is beyond doubt that the warm-hearted people of Derry knew that Mrs Foster must have felt unsure entering a Catholic and nationalist citadel on a day which was dedicated to the "other crowd". They may have imagined entering an Orange Lodge on the evening of July 12.

Later at the graveside, the hugely emotive appeal by Gerry Adams for both sides to abandon prejudice and bigotry had great resonance. An approach too often by many in the North's bitter 50-year conflict beckoned - why not just treat each other as human beings?

The funeral for Martin McGuinness took place yesterday and thousands lined the streets of Derry to pay their respects to the veteran republican.

Let's quickly add that many people on all sides in the North never lost sight of that imperative. And they were seen to practise it long before Mr Adams was publicly speaking about it.

Above all, this was a burial for a chieftan - and history teaches us that all chieftans are flawed.

The ones who achieved, lived lives which left serious questions and doubts about their less savoury actions. The passing of an achieving chieftan, left many of their own people quietly harbouring serious grievances, and many of their rival chieftains' people with admiration they dare not voice.

The departed chieftans were often variously loved and hated by their own people and their rival chieftains' people.

But in the end, good chieftains also left a considerable legacy of things they achieved, and some unfinished works. Sometimes, their departure has left a dangerous political vacuum which has cost the people they have led and the following generations.

This is why the magically swift words of former US president Bill Clinton cut so deftly to the chase. His message to all of the North's political leaders was as ever utterly simple.

Mr Clinton, who in his heyday gave much of his political oomph to the quest for peace in the North, said: If you mean any of these expressions of grief here today - cut a power-sharing deal now!

Much has rightly been spoken and written about Martin McGuinness's dark past, which former taoiseach Brian Cowen has pithily described as the "first phase of his life". We hope to know more of this in the years to come because incomplete and bad history does not help any nation to progress.

In saluting the "second phase", in which Mr McGuinness lived up to his commitment to peace-making and power-sharing, we are left bereft and unsure about the future of things on this island. There is no doubting Mr McGuinness's commitment to ensuring peace lasted in the North and that new power-sharing institutions worked.

The rising generation on both sides of the political equation in the North tell us they revere and share that commitment. But the evidence for this remains less than convincing.

Bill Clinton pays tribute to Martin McGuinness at his funeral saying 'he expanded the definition of us and shrunk the definition of them'.

Arlene Foster, has been seen as somebody taking a step back into the dark past. She has much ground to make up.

But she is not the only one. Mr McGuinness's departure is set to be followed by that of Mr Adams as leader.

We await the new Sinn Féin leadership tier with scepticism.

Irish Independent