The funeral of Martin McGuinness is still generating column inches a week after his interment. In the Irish News today journalist Martin O’Brien focuses on the presence of the Unionist (DUP) delegation and the eulogies paid to McGuinness by folk like former United States President Bill Clinton.
“There were many moments during last week’s superbly organised and sensitively handled funeral of Martin McGuinness RIP that will live in the memory.
They included the arrival in Long Tower Church of Arlene Foster (accompanied by Peter Robinson and Simon Hamilton) and the prolonged applause she received as she took her seat.
I had a good view of Mrs Foster’s arrival in the church as I was seated in the gallery overlooking the altar and directly above the pews reserved for the ranks of visiting dignitaries.
At that moment, along with everyone else in the church, I was unaware of the spontaneous and generous applause that had already greeted the DUP leader as she walked towards Long Tower.
The applause would have been even greater if the huge crowd had known that Mrs Foster had chosen to come to the funeral not wearing her royal crown brooch that obviously means much to her – a significant detail that seems to have been overlooked in much of the media commentary.
Mrs Foster has incurred trenchant and justifiable criticism in recent months but in a society where healing gestures are as important as they are welcome – something she did not “get” when she was first minister – her courage in attending the funeral and the sensitivity that she showed in eschewing that brooch should be recognised as something to be built on, whatever the gravity of the current political crisis.
Another memorable moment was the widely-reported eulogy of Bill Clinton.
It should be said, in passing, at the risk of stating the obvious, that in the circumstances it was perfectly fitting for Mr Clinton to be permitted to make that speech in which he skilfully prodded all our political leaders to honour Mr McGuinness’s legacy by finishing “the work that is there to be done.”
O’Brien as with other articles refers to McGuiness as an ex IRA commander but it seems likely that given the influence he had over that body he was likely a former Chief of Staff (CoS).
Also present of course was Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny strange times indeed if McGuinness was a former Chief of Staff of the IRA a body with which the 26 County government has at times waged a war more ruthless than the British.
Irish politics is full of contradictions. When McGuinness’s erstwhile colleague (prior to the 1986 split in the movement) Ruairí Ó Brádaigh – who was admittedly an ex IRA CoS was buried – on that occasion the Taoiseach turned out the Garda ERU to disrupt the funeral. That said Ó Brádaigh, unlike McGuiness, had never embraced the peace.
Image: Garda ERU scuffle with mourners at 2013 Ó Brádaigh funeral
pp Celtic League.