FORMER US PRESIDENT Bill Clinton called on the North’s political leaders to continue Martin McGuinness’s work in the peace process as he spoke this afternoon at St Columba’s Church.
The funeral of the former Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister took place in his native Derry this afternoon.
Thousands lined the streets of the city hours before the funeral procession was due to leave McGuinness’s Bogside home.
Alongside Clinton, major political figures like former First Minister Peter Robinson and former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern also attended the ceremony.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and President Micheal D Higgins were also among the congregation.
Bill Clinton received a warm welcome from the crowd and drew laughter several times as he spoke. Referring to the often-remarked-upon friendship that McGuinness struck up with Ian Paisley, he quipped: “I thought that it was great that he got a word in edgewise.”
McGuinness had made “honourable compromises,” he said.
He never stopped being who he was – a good husband, good father and a passionate believer in a secure self-governing Ireland, said Clinton.
He “expanded the definition of ‘us’, and shrunk the definition of ‘them’”.
McGuinness’s wife Bernadette and their children Grainne, Fionnuala, Fiachra and Emmet, and grandchildren, were all present in the church.
The service was presided over by Bishop Donal McKeown, Bishop of Derry. Fr Michael Canny was chief celebrant.
McGuinness was as “a complex man” and “a remarkable man,” Fr Canny said.
He “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”.
He said that by any standards, Martin McGuinness was:
Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTubeA remarkable man and his life was a remarkable journey. The values he had, the principles he championed are still very much alive.
Fr Canny continued:
There are people in this church today whose presence would have been unthinkable only a generation ago.
They have forged working relationships with Martin McGuinness; they have built friendships with him; they have occupied Stormont’s benches alongside him.
Some have even sat in government with him. You are all very, very welcome.
The presence of those political rivals and opponents among you, who have come to pay their respects this afternoon, is the most eloquent testimony to the memory of Martin McGuinness.
Fr Canny said that Martin McGuinness had visited the White House, Downing Street and Windsor Castle, but “only ever felt at home in his beloved Bogside, returning to his wife and family at every opportunity”.
The priest said that he had many conversations with McGuinness down through the years “and he knew only too well how many people struggled with his IRA past”.
Republicans were not blameless, and many people right across the community find it difficult to forgive and impossible to forget.
He noted how Martin McGuinness had embraced peace, saying:
On that journey many years ago, Martin realised that the time for peace had come and he pursued the peace process with relentless energy for the rest of his days, until illness finally struck him down. In the course of that journey he encountered many obstacles but he remained resolute.
In conversation he often repeated that there was no other way, we had to continually work for the building of peace and a better future for all. Despite many setbacks he never became disheartened.
Gerry Adams, the Sinn Féin President, delivered the graveside oration.
“This week, Ireland lost a hero. Derry lost a son,” he said.
Rights are at the heart of the struggle of for Irish freedom, he told mourners.
It’s all about rights; Civil rights, human rights, religious rights, language rights, LGBT rights, social and economic rights, rights for women, national rights, the right to freedom.
So, here at the graveside of this good man, let me appeal to our unionist neighbours.
Let us learn to like each other, to be friends, to celebrate and enjoy our differences and to do so on the basis of common sense, respect and tolerance for each other and everyone else as equals.
Let me appeal also to nationalists and republicans; do nothing to disrespect our unionist neighbours or anyone else.
Stand against bigotry. Stand against sectarianism. Respect our unionist neighbours. Reach out to them.
Lead, as Martin led, by example.
Before the ceremony began, the Taoiseach, Adams and Clinton all paid their respects to the McGuinness family inside the church.
President Higgins was also at the funeral of Derry City FC captain Ryan McBride in the city – at the same church – earlier today.
Hundreds of mourners lined the streets of the city to pay their respects to McBride, who died suddenly on Sunday.
Our reporter @ronanduffy_ is in Derry and will be tweeting updates this afternoon.