Unionists react to death of Martin McGuinness

Arlene Foster paid tribute to her former partner in government. Picture by Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.
Andrew Madden

ARLENE Foster paid tribute last night to Martin McGuinness in the wake of his death describing his contribution to the peace process as "significant".

The DUP leader, who shared the Executive Office with Mr McGuinness before he quit his post as deputy first minister in January triggering the rcent Stormont election, said "his contribution to the political and peace process was significant".

But according to Mrs Foster, who also offered condolences to the McGuinness family, “history will record differing views and opinions on the role Martin McGuinness played throughout the recent and not so recent past.”

The DUP last night said Mrs Foster was still undecided as to whether she would attend Martin McGuinness's funeral.

The departing Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt, meanwhile, expressed a similar view and said, while Mr McGuinness had become a pivotal figure at Stormont, yesterday was also a "very challenging day for victims".

"I believe no-one needed to die to get Northern Ireland to where it is today," he said.

"Clearly Martin McGuinness very actively disagreed with that analysis, but I also accept in his later years he was on a journey to create change through politics, becoming a pivotal figure at Stormont."

Ian Paisley Jnr, whose father formed a close bond with the former deputy first minister at Stormont, spoke of Mr McGuinness's journey towards peace.

The North Antrim DUP MP said that although Mr McGuinness was for a time "the godfather of the IRA, a man who struck terror into the hearts of people" he later became "the necessary man in government to deliver and stable and lasting peace".

"I think the Christian view in life is how a person's journey started is of course important, but it is how it finishes which is actually more important," he added.

Former DUP leader and first minister Peter Robinson, who worked with Martin McGuinness for seven years in the office of first and deputy first ministers at Stormont, revealed what appeared to be a close bond.

"We had the best of personal relationships - keeping in touch even after my retirement and during his illness," he said.

"I do not believe that any other republican could have performed the role he did during this transition.

"In the difficult days we presently face his influence will be greatly missed."

Others, however, strongly underlined the role he played during his time as an IRA commander in Derry.

TUV leader Jim Allister was scathing in his assessment of the former IRA leader and said he would take "dark secrets to his grave, denying truth and justice to many IRA victims."


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