Sunday 17 December 2017

'Chuckle Brother' was not a saint, so don't treat him as one

The good deeds of old men can never erase the memory of the evil deeds committed by their younger selves

Martin McGuinness announcing his resignation as deputy First Minister
Martin McGuinness announcing his resignation as deputy First Minister

Eilis O'Hanlon

When Ian Paisley died, the tributes to the loathsome old sectarian bigot were suitably nauseating. It was as if history had begun the moment that the DUP leader first shared a stage with Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness as part of the "Chuckle Brothers" act, and everything which went before had never happened.

With McGuinness's own retirement from Northern Irish politics confirmed with an announcement that the former Deputy First Minister will not be standing in the forthcoming election triggered by Sinn Fein's collapse of Stormont, a similarly favourable air has hung over the one-time IRA leader's political obituaries.

In both cases, the tributes were too generous. The two men had undoubtedly moved to more moderate positions in later life, but it took them far too long to get there, and they seemed to expect excessive praise at the end for doing what most ordinary people had been doing all their lives - that is, accepting that you can't always get what you want, and there's no shame in not expecting hundreds to die for your so-called principles.

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