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New York's Irish community turns out in droves to honour Martin McGuinness

Relatives and hundreds of members of the Irish community attended the month’s mind mass.

mm1 St Patrick's St Patrick's

SENATOR GEORGE MITCHELL gave a eulogy and large crowds turned out in New York last evening as a month’s mind mass for Martin McGuinness took place at St Patrick’s Cathedral.

Hundreds of members of the city’s Irish community attended the service, along with members of the late Sinn Féin politician’s family and Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald.

Addressing the congregation, Mitchell said he had first met McGuinness in 1995 when he was asked to travel to Northern Ireland as President Clinton’s representative.

Over the past two decades, he said, “much has been written and said about how Northern Ireland moved from war to peace”.

The Prime Ministers and Taoisigh who presided over the peace process deserved credit for the progress, he said.

“But as I have said often the real heroes of the Northern Ireland peace process were the people and the political leaders of Northern Ireland.”

At great risk to themselves and to their families, he said, “at a critical moment in their people’s history they summoned the courage and vision to end a conflict that some historians trace back over 800 years”.

Martin was one of them. He had courage and he had vision.

U.S.-NEW YORK-ST. PATRICK'S DAY-PARADE File image: People march past St Patrick's Cathedral during the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York this year. SIPA USA / PA Images SIPA USA / PA Images / PA Images

Before the IRA’s ceasefires, McGuinness had been ”deeply engaged” in conflict, Mitchell said. After the negotiations started, Mitchell said, he was ”deeply engaged in trying to end the conflict”.

There was no doubt his leadership had been a major factor in reaching the Good Friday and other agreements, and in maintaining the peace that followed, the former Maine senator said.

The iconic images of the former Deputy First Minister working alongside his former foe Ian Paisley and the photos of him meeting the Queen ”graphically represent the massive transformations that occurred in Northern Ireland,” he said.

In a lighter moment, he joked that the negotiations took so long to complete because “it took me one year to understand what anybody was saying – and only then did we get down to business”.

mmg St Patrick's St Patrick's

Large photos of McGuinness were displayed on the altar for the ceremony, which was presided over by Monsignor Robert Ritchie, the cathedral’s rector. Consul General of Ireland Barbara Jones was among the congregation.

A month’s mind mass will also be held in Derry tomorrow evening.

Read: ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ author Robert Pirsig dies aged 88 >

Read: Austin Stack says wording on Martin McGuinness’s headstone is insulting >

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