Wednesday 19 December 2018

‘Honour him by finishing the work that is there to be done’ – Clinton

Bill Clinton rests a hand on the coffin
Bill Clinton rests a hand on the coffin
Martin McGuinness’ wife Bernie is comforted outside the family home in Derry’s Bogside
Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams helps carry the coffin
Crowds on Westland Street

The legacy of Martin McGuinness must be to finish the work of peace that he started during his life, former US President Bill Clinton has said.

Mr Clinton, a key figure in the peace process in the 1990s, addressed mourners who packed St Columba’s Church in Derry for the funeral of one of the city’s favourite sons.

The congregation included DUP leader Arlene Foster, former Northern Ireland first minister Peter Robinson, North Secretary James Brokenshire, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and former taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Singling out Mrs Foster for a special word of appreciation for her attendance, Mr Clinton said he recognised – as did most people in the church – that her life “had been marked in painful ways by the Troubles”.

In his tribute to Mr McGuinness, Mr Clinton said: “He expanded the definition of ‘us’ and shrunk the definition of ‘them’.

“If you really came here to celebrate his life, and to honour the contribution of the last chapter of it, you have to finish his work.

“Honour his legacy by our living and finish the work that’s there to be done.”


The funeral drew a huge number of people to St Columba’s Church – the largest seen in the city since the funerals of the Bloody Sunday victims in 1972.

Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown presided at the Mass, where Fr Michael Canny, a personal friend of Mr McGuinness, was the chief celebrant.

In his homily, Fr Canny said the legacy of Mr McGuinness was evident to anyone who looked around the congregation.

“Look not at the beauty of this St Columba’s Church, which was such an integral and important part of Martin’s life,” he said.

“Look, instead, at the people gathered in this church, to say farewell to a man who was such a proud member of this community, the person who 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.

“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.

“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.

“When you seek his monument, you – by your presence – are his monument.”

Fr Canny also reminded those gathered that, as well as a political leader, Mr McGuinness was, in his own eyes, first and foremost a husband, father and grandfather.

“He [Mr McGuinness] was a man of simple tastes who ascended to the political summit,” Fr Canny said.

“He 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.


“He shook hands with presidents, prime ministers, taoisigh and even royalty, but was most comfortable walking with Bernie along the backshore at Buncrana, or wandering at Inch Island, or up at Grianan, or along a riverbank fishing.

“A big figure has been taken from your life and the life of your family, but be assured of our prayers and continuing support over the many difficult and challenging days ahead,” he added.

Following final prayers, Mr McGuinness’s coffin was raised up on the shoulders of his two sons and his brothers and walked out of the church, to the same thunderous applause that followed it from his home.

Burial took place later at the City Cemetery, where Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and the party’s Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill gave a graveside oration.

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