Outpouring of sympathy crosses the divide

March 27, 2017

The death of former deputy First Minister, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness on Tuesday prompted a wave of sympathy and despondency across the district and from both sides of the community.

Rarely has the passing of a political figure been so keenly felt in every community and parish, and indeed throughout the country and beyond.

Martin McGuinness’s contribution to the political roadmap in the north and its pathway to peace has been immeasurable, and with his affable personality, he endeared himself to many.  A regular visitor to this area, he often praised the volume of support and resolve generated by party activists, many of whom were close friends.

Crossmaglen councillor Terry Hearty said the respect and support shown for Martin and his family “has been overwhelming”, adding that several hundred people from across the Newry and Armagh constituency attended the funeral in Derry on Thursday.

“Buses packed to capacity and a fleet of cars with young and old made their way to Derry to pay their respects to our friend and comrade,” Councillor Hearty said.

“Many hundreds of local people were there to witness a deeply poignant and historic occasion.  Many more have visited the various civic offices and Sinn Féin centres to sign the Books of Condolences.

“The respect and support for the late Martin and his wife Bernie and the McGuinness family has been overwhelming,” he added.

SDLP MLA Justin McNulty offered his condolences to the bereaved family and said, that despite political differences, Martin McGuinness must be commended for playing his part in the peace process.

“Martin will be remembered by so many across Ireland as a fierce advocate, determined to advance the peace process and work in partnership to help the people he represented,” he said.  “History will undoubtedly record his life as a journey, one which traced the development of our fledgling peace process from the fire of terrible conflict to a fragile but enduring peace.”

The tricolour flies at half-mast over the hunger strike monument at Fords Cross, as a mark of respect on the death of Martin McGuinness

Slieve Gullion SDLP Councillor Pete Byrne said his thoughts are with his fellow councillors in Newry, Mourne and Down Council at this difficult time.

“Having met Martin on a number of occasions over the years, I always found him to be warm and personable.  His character, coupled with his undeniable leadership and the willingness to reach across the divide, contributed immensely to the lasting peace we enjoy today,” he said.

Council Chairperson, Gillian Fitzpatrick extended her condolences, adding that she wished “to acknowledge Martin’s committment to political processes both locally and globally and particularly to his role as Deputy First Minister for Northern Ireland, where he made a very significant and positive contribution”.

People queue in Crossmaglen Square on Thursday morning to sign the book of condolence in memory of Martin McGuinness before travelling to Derry to attend his funeral

A special sitting of the Assembly was convened on Wednesday to allow members the opportunity to record their sympathy.

Martin McGuinness was laid to rest in Derry city cemetery on Thursday, following Requiem Mass in St. Columba’s church, Long Tower.  Thousands of mourners lined the city streets while high profile statesmen, dignataries and politicians from across Ireland, the UK and the USA joined with friends and supporters to pay their respects and recognise the contribution that he made for peace and reconciliation.