Sunday 22 April 2018

Bertie Ahern: Martin’s common touch was an essential ingredient for peace

Brian Cowen takes a call as Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams share a laugh with then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. Photo: Collins
Brian Cowen takes a call as Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams share a laugh with then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. Photo: Collins
Bertie Ahern

Bertie Ahern

Martin McGuinness was a man of impeccable manners. He was usually unfailingly polite and he was kind-hearted. This description may not fit the stereotype some would like to portray of a man who was active for a number of years at a high level in the IRA, but it accurately reflects the Martin McGuinness I knew very well for over two decades.

I have always been a firm believer in the proposition that while policy is important, it is people who make history. Personalities matter in peace-making and Martin's good nature and his good humour were essential ingredients in copper-fastening a new dispensation of co-operation in Northern Ireland. On political and policy issues, Martin and Ian Paisley were poles apart, but they gelled as people and that was crucial.

When I heard of Martin's untimely death, my mind immediately cast back to May 8, 2007. This day became known as 'Devolution Day' in Northern Ireland and was one of those moments that will always leave me with a warm glow. Martin was centre stage that day and so too was Mr Paisley. It is less than 10 years ago, but sadly now both of them are no longer with us and are gone to their eternal reward.

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