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Arlene Foster to attend Martin McGuinness funeral

Arlene Foster signs the book of condolence for former deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness at Stormont yesterday. Picture by Hugh Russell.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has announced that she will attend today’s funeral of former deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness.

It was confirmed yesterday that former US president, Bill Clinton and former prime minister, Tony Blair would join Irish president, Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach, Enda Kenny at today’s funeral at St Columba’s church, Long Tower. Former Irish president, Mary McAleese is also expected to attend.

Pressure increased on Mrs Foster throughout yesterday to attend the funeral as she had spent a full year working in the same joint office of OFMDFM with Mr McGuinness. It was also suggested her attendance would send out a message of intent for the future.

Writing in The Belfast Telegraph, Mrs Foster said: "Having worked with Martin McGuinness for almost a decade, I want to pay my respects to his family on the occasion of his death."

She acknowledged: "I recognise that some will be critical of my decision to attend this funeral and I respect their view."

Ann Travers - whose sister Mary was shot dead by the IRA in an assassination attempt on her father, Judge Tom Travers - said Mrs Foster should attend.

In a post on Twitter, Ms Travers said: “She should go. She worked with him and is a political leader, as an IRA victim’s sister and daughter I understand that.”

Party insiders said the former first minister had been concerned about possible republican symbolism or paramilitary trappings at the funeral.

Mrs Foster wrote: "He was a complex character but anyone who talked with him will know that he was devoted to his wife, children and grand-children. Regardless of where we were in the world or who we were meeting, Martin would always speak of getting home and of his family."

She referred to her own experiences of the Troubles. Her father was shot in the head by the IRA and survived and a bomb was put under a school bus she travelled on. 

"My childhood memories of Martin McGuinness are not pleasant. He was part of an organisation responsible for the murder of many neighbours and friends," she wrote. 

Mrs Foster added that we must leave terrorism behind and hold democracy dear. 

Thousands expected to attend Martin McGuinness funeral.

The Northern Ireland Office confirmed last night that Secretary of State James Brokenshire intends attending the funeral. It is understood all of Sinn Féin’s elected representatives from throughout Ireland will attend along with representatives from other parties north and south of the border.

Dail Éireann is to be officially represented by Donegal Fianna Fail deputy, Pat 'the Cope' Gallagher while former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern is also expected to attend the Requiem Mass. The Tricolour will also be flown at half-mast at Leinster House today as a mark of respect.

Derry is preparing for a huge influx of people from all parts of Ireland for today’s funeral. Mr McGuinness’s body will be brought from his home at Westland Street at 1.20pm to St Columba’s, his parish church for Requiem Mass at 2pm.

Following funeral Mass, he will be buried in the republican plot at the nearby Derry city cemetery where Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams will deliver the graveside oration.

Mr McGuinness’s funeral is one of three due to take place at St Columba’s church today. Derry City FC captain, Ryan McBride’s Requiem Mass will take place at 10am while the funeral of local man, Hugo Gallagher will take place at noon.

Derry city and Strabane district council has put a major traffic management plan in place to cope with the anticipated thousands of mourners expected to attend.

A spokeswoman said free car parking would be available at council-owned car parks at William Street and Bishop Street.

“Car parking in and around St Columba’s Church, Long Tower will very restricted and, in order to facilitate mourners, car parking is being made available at Lumen Christi College, Bishop’s Field, Celtic Park, the Gasyard Centre, Bishop Street and William Street,” she said.

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