Martin McGuinness to me was never a man who set out to be involved in any violence. Some people have made statements about his early days and a lot of media commentators asked interviewees about how the victims of the IRA would feel this week. I for sure would not like to bring back those past dark days, having spent a lot of time in the north in the 80’s, but I was disappointed that the media didn’t emphasise more that there were two sides to the struggle and not just one. There was a reason why the troubles broke out in the north, and it was not because people like Martin woke up one morning and decided to be involved in violence, out of the blue. It was desperation.
I didn’t ever have the privilege of meeting Martin McGuinness, but I feel that while a united Ireland was an ambition of his, it was much more important to him that the community he represented was treated equally in the north and with dignity, and he would have stood for the same principles, had he grown up in any other part of the world.
The man was a giant, and I always have been, and still am, convinced that there would be no peace process without him. Nobody else was in a position to defuse that horrible situation as good as he was. There were plenty of others on both sides who helped in a big way, but without Martin McGuinness’ courage and intelligence it would never have happened.
I only hope that his unfortunate early passing will unite the people of all sides to unite even more on our small Island.
I am not at all religious or nationalistic, and I used to joke in the economic recession of the 80’s that we (in the south) would be better off if the UK agreed to take another six counties, as long as they agreed to pump the same amount of funds into those new six counties as they were into the north. It was a joke, but we need to be a united people of Ireland above all else who respect each other, regardless of religion, nationality or race.
Gordon Wilson was another northern hero of mine.
Let’s look to an even better future, and the first challenge we all need to face *together* on this small island, is the effects and opportunities of Brexit.
R.I.P. Martin McGuinness, and all those who lost their lives in the troubles – on both sides.