Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

“Deep void” at loss of leader, friend and mentor

More than 500 people attended a candlelit and black flag vigil in Newry on Wednesday evening to mark the passing of the former deputy first minister, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness.  Addressing those gathered, Megan Fearon MLA said the death of her Assembly colleague “has left a deep void”.

“He has been leader, friend and mentor to myself, and many others,” she said.

“Martin was also a deeply committed Irish republican activist who in his youth was confronted by the naked sectarianism and injustice of the British state in Ireland.  He believed in freedom and equality.  He resisted those who withheld these by military means, and then he helped shape conditions in which it was possible to advocate for these by unarmed strategies.

“Martin also understood that reconciliation and peace-building meant reaching out to others. [His] leadership and vision helped turn Sinn Féin into the largest political party on the island of Ireland. Our responsibility, now that he has gone, is to build on that legacy. To continue the work that he helped pioneer. That means building a new Ireland – a united Ireland – that embraces all its citizens on the basis of equality and respect.

“Martin is gone, and we will miss him,” she added.  “But he leaves behind a Sinn Féin party stronger, better organised, and more electorally popular than it has been in almost 100 years. We have a cadre of young, energetic leaders who are as determined as my generation of achieving a united Ireland.  It is a party more determined and more able than ever before to deliver on Martin’s goal of a new Ireland.”

Following the vigil, Sinn Fein held a pre-arranged public meeting in Bellini’s to deliver an update on the continuing political negotiations at Stormont.