Northern Ireland news

Minister who befriended Martin McGuinness to retire

Presbyterian minister Rev David Latimer became a close personal friend of former Sinn Féin deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

A PRESBYTERIAN clergyman who became one of the late deputy first minister Martin McGuinness’s closest friends has announced he is to retire.

Rev David Latimer (68) will retire as minister of First Derry Presbyterian Church early next year after 32 years in the city.

The churchman, who was also a chaplain in the Territorial Army, became friends with Mr McGuinness after asking him for help in dealing with vandalism at his church.

When Mr McGuinness announced his plans to run for the Irish presidency in 2011, Rev Latimer joined Fr Michael Canny to endorse the campaign at the official launch in Derry’s Bogside.

Rev Latimer frequently praised Mr McGuinness’s efforts for the peace process and once said they had become “as close as brothers”. He once spoke – at Mr McGuinness’s invitation – at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis and also delivered a eulogy at Mr McGuinness’s funeral.

In his book, “A Leap of Faith” which detailed his friendship with Mr McGuinness, Rev Latimer revealed he came under pressure from within his own congregation and community over his link with the deputy first leader.

Originally from Co Down, Rev Latimer said he was giving up his day-to-day ministry with a heavy heart. He said he will retire from his ministerial position on January 31 next year but intends remaining in Derry where he will continue his work for reconciliation.

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