The death of the Sinn Fein leader, Martin McGuinness has caused as much controversy as he did in life. If you read the opinion pieces in the media there is a definite split, should we remember McGuinness for the latter part of his life involving the peace process and compromise or the violence of his IRA days.
Much of course probably relies on your age and experiences to how you viewed the controversial figure. Norman Tebbit of course, who’s wife was paralysed in the Brighton bombing orchestrated by the IRA has more reason than most to despise McGuinness. For those unaffected directly though perhaps the most inspiring moment was when Arlene Foster joined the funeral congregation and was applauded by all the those who sat around.
The DUP leader has more reasons than most to despise Martin McGuinness, she lost her father when he was shot by the IRA. When she was 16 years old, her school bus was attacked by an IRA bomb. Yet for the last 15 months she has worked with Sinn Fein and their leader in an attempt to maintain the peace process and lead Northern Ireland forward.
It was a bright moment which surprised many, yet the reception she received from the largely Catholic audience seemed genuinely affectionate. Was it a political stunt, no-one except Arlene Foster would know but it’s moments like these that give hope to maintaining the peace of Northern Ireland. The tribute was extended by Bill Clinton who praised the DUP leader, he also empathised with how difficult it was to attend the funeral of someone involved in her father’s killing.
It is important because hate and division has for so long been ingrained in the very fabric of Northern Irish society. Even if the attendance was merely a political gambit, it had real power and demonstrated that it was possible to forgive even in the most extreme situations. The symbolism was powerful, it might inspire others to follow her example on both sides of the political divide.
It will be interesting to see if McGuinness’s death has any impact on the negotiations for power sharing, but it is hoped that something positive will develop. It’s worth keeping an eye out on the local media for a fuller picture. The Irish broadcaster RTE in the Republic of Ireland has good coverage but you’ll need to use the same technology people use to watch BBC iPlayer in Ireland like this to access it from the UK mainland for example.