Northern Ireland news

Denis Bradley: McGuinness legacy will always be a mixed one

Thousands of mourners followed Martin McGuinness' coffin through the Bogside in Derry last year. Picture by Mal McCann
Seamus McKinney

FORMER Policing Board vice-chairman Denis Bradley believes Martin McGuinness’s prominent role in the peace process helped soften the hurt felt by some Troubles victims’ families.

Mr Bradley worked extensively with victims of the Troubles when he was appointed, along with former Archbishop of Armagh, Robin Eames, as co-chairman of the Consultative Group on the Past.

He also had a long relationship with Mr McGuinness and his family since his own days as a priest in Derry’s Bogside.

In November 1974, Mr Bradley officiated at the former IRA leader’s wedding.

Having recently been released from Portlaoise prison after serving a sentence for IRA membership, the republican had been on the run and unable to return north.

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Mr Bradley, a friend of both Mr McGuinness and his wife Bernie, was asked to officiate at their wedding at St Marys’ Church, Cockhill, near Buncrana.

He said the request came more through Mrs McGuinness - then Bernie Canning - than through her husband.

“I was curate in Long Tower and I knew Bernie better than Martin at that time. She was in the Long Tower but Martin was in the Cathedral (St Eugene’s) parish,” he said.

A year on from the former deputy first minister’s death, Mr Bradley believes his legacy will always been a mixed one.

“There will be those who see him as the initiator of the peace and the man who became a powerful reconciling politician and there is a group who see him as the IRA man and the man who carried much of the legacy of the IRA," he said.

“But it is not as simple as that. Even among those who would be hostile to him politically – I’m talking about unionism – many developed a warmth towards him in later years."

He added: “However, you can’t doubt that for some he was and always will be that bete noire of the Troubles. He lived in that dual area.”

Over the last year, Mr Bradley has also discussed Mr McGuinness’s legacy with families of Troubles victims.

The former priest said their views reflect the division in attitudes among the wider public.

“There are people who were very hurt by the IRA and would have no sympathy or change of heart over the years. But equally there would be people who would be hurt but who would in some way have that hurt softened by the peace process in which Martin was so prominent,” he said.

Martin McGuinness pictured as part of an IRA colour party in 1972.

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