Awakening this morning to the news that Martin McGuinness has passed away, it’s hard to believe that this giant of Irish politics is no longer with us.
Although I briefly spoke to him a few times while I worked in Stormont, I don’t have the privilege of saying that I knew him. What is clear from those who knew him and from the tributes that have come pouring in is that this is someone who has had a profound impact on many, many people’s lives.
Throughout his life he took steps that would have been near impossible for anyone but him. He brought people with him. While many commentators talk about the ‘journey’ that McGuinness has been on throughout is career, his guiding principles and beliefs remained steadfast. Always a committed republican and leader, determined to create a better future for the country. As for tactics and approaches, he not only changed with the times but he in fact changed the times.
I don’t think many other leaders, if any, are not only viewed with so much respect by those around them, but also with such affection. So many people this morning are talking about the loss of a friend and a mentor; they talk about a warm, charming and funny man. These personal traits and the relationships that he built were undoubtedly one of the reasons that he was able to achieve as much as he did for the people of Ireland.
There are so many words that could be used to describe this man: leader, statesman, laoch, revolutionary. All of them really mean that we are better off now because of the work that he did and the example he showed than we would have been otherwise. The success of the peace process and the changes that have taken place in the north over the past 40 years are a testament to his efforts. Although the devolved institutions struggle, and there is still much work to do to ensure equality and fairness north and south, Martin McGuinness has played a central and vital role in bringing about an end to violence and moving things forward to the place that we are today.
During the next days and weeks there will be many tributes and discussions about the legacy that Martin McGuinness has left behind. Perhaps by reflecting on the work that he did throughout his life that we can all learn from his example and continue to build the republic that he worked for.
Laoch ar lár inniu. Suaimhneas sioraí do.