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Martin McGuinness grave has become 'place of pilgrimage'

Visitors at the grave of Martin McGuinness in Derry City Cemetery. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin 
Seamus McKinney

THE grave of former deputy first minister Martin McGuinness has become a place of pilgrimage for visitors from all over the world, according to a Derry city cemetery tour guide.

Seamus Breslin – of Friends of Derry City Cemeteries Historic Headstones - said Mr McGuinness’s final resting place has fast become the major attraction at the cemetery. An unknown bride and groom have even had their pictures taken at the graveside, he said.

“It’s turning out to be a bit like Michael Collins’ grave in Glasnevin,” Mr Breslin said.

The former IRA leader and Sinn Féin politician passed away in March following a short illness at the age of 66. He was buried in Derry City Cemetery’s republican plot alongside IRA, Sinn Féin and other republican activists.

The Celtic Cross headstone over his grave is the same as the others in the plot and bears the inscription: “In Proud and Loving Memory of Óglach (Volunteer) Martin McGuinness, Óglaigh na hÉireann (IRA member), MP, MLA, Minister, Died 21st March 2017.”

The only difference marking Mr McGuinness’s grave out from the others in the republican plot is a small photograph of the senior republican in the lower corner of the headstone.

According to official cemetery tour guide, Mr Breslin, the former deputy first minister’s grave attracts visitors on a daily basis.

“We have groups coming in all the time and it is the one grave that people ask to see; it’s the first thing they ask for when I meet them. This is happening on a daily basis; the grave has become the ‘must-see’ grave in the cemetery,” Mr Breslin said.

The Derry man said people have even travelled to Derry specifically to visit the grave.

“Mostly people ask to see the Bloody Sunday graves and the Martin McGuinness grave and then want to be directed to the Museum of Free Derry. But there are others who come in and they’ve travelled specially to visit the McGuinness grave.”

Mr Breslin likened the attraction to that of former IRA War of Independence leader, Michael Collins in Dublin. Located at Glasnevin in Ireland’s largest cemetery, thousands of people visit the Collins grave each year.

“I have had people from all over the world here. It has become a place of pilgrimage. There are Americans and Canadians and Australians and people from every part of Ireland wanting to visit the grave. Last week I’d a group from Italy.

“They usually have their picture taken at the grave and then stand respectably in silence,” Mr Breslin said.

Derry City and Strabane District council, which owns the cemetery, confirmed that there had been a large increase in people looking for Mr McGuinness’s grave.

A spokeswoman said: “While we do not keep a tally of visitors, we have had a number of requests from visitors asking where Martin McGuinness’s grave is within the cemetery.”

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