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Seamus McKinney: McGuinness won respect of many of his former enemies

Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness arrives at Downing Street in London for a Joint Ministerial Council meeting in October last year. Picture by Press Assocation
Seamus McKinney

MARTIN McGuinness has always been something of an enigma in his home city.

An enemy of unionists - and many nationalists - in recent years he has won a grudging respect from many for his journey from 'hawk to dove'.

Former Policing Board vice-chairman, Denis Bradley said Derry people admired Mr McGuinness because of his “straightness.”

While he has been a particular hate figure for dissident republicans, who have targeted his home and property in recent times, the fact that he is able to walk freely around his home town is an indication of the respect he has won.

His strength of character has been recognised even by his greatest enemies. For many the mark of the Sinn Féin leader was most apparent last week when, looking weak and frail, he insisted on appearing before the media to explain his resignation as deputy first minister.

Last week former Ulster Unionist mayor of Derry Jack Allen said Mr McGuinness had won respect over the years - even among former political enemies city.

His decision to meet Queen Elizabeth and to speak out against erstwhile republican colleagues surprised even those in nationalist and republican circles.

In reality – Gerry Adams apart – Mr McGuinness was probably the only leader who could carry out such moves while still managing to bring the republican movement along with him.

For families of those killed and injured by the IRA, it must be difficult to see McGuinness as anything other than a ruthless paramilitary leader. However, in Derry and other nationalist and republican heartlands, there is an admiration – and depending on the times – even a pride in what he has done.

His departure from the political stage will be greeted with disappointment among many nationalists – and maybe among many unionists too.

 

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