Northern Ireland news

Martin McGuinness' grave already a place of republican pilgrimage

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

IN the few weeks since his death, Martin McGuinness's grave has become a place of pilgrimage for republicans.

Since the unveiling of his headstone at Derry city cemetery on Easter Sunday, hundreds of people have visited the grave to pay their respects.

Throughout Monday, both before and during the main dissident republican Easter commemoration, there was a steady stream of visitors. Some kneeling to pray while others had photographs taken standing beside the headstone.

During the Saoradh commemoration, there were mixed comments about the former IRA leader. One young man could be heard complaining at the inclusion of the word `MP' on the gravestone, while a friend reminded him that Bobby was also an MP. Some who would not have shared Mr McGuinness's brand of republicanism made derogatory remarks. But others paused to pay their respects.

Taxi companies report that the grave has already become a must-see destination for visitors on the tour of Derry.

Breda Henderson from west Limerick said she came to Derry on Easter Monday morning specifically to visit the McGuinness grave.

"We were up in Belfast but I came here because I wanted to show my respect because he was a good leader. I think it will become a shrine the same as Michael Collins's grave (in Glasnevin cemetery) or the Bobby Sands grave (in Milltown cemetery)," she said.

Martin McGuinness's grave at Derry City Cemetery. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

Mrs Henderson, who previously lived in Belfast before returning to her native Limerick, said she wanted to attend Mr McGuinness's funeral last month but had been unable to make the journey. Some unionists have objected to Mr McGuinness's name being listed as `Óglach' (volunteer) Martin McGuinness, a reference to his IRA past. However, Mrs Henderson said she took no issue with that.

"I was not surprised; he never denied it (his IRA membership) and he was proud of it," she said.

A group of Scottish republicans – in Belfast for Easter Sunday's commemoration – also made the trip to Derry to visit the grave.

A spokesman for the group, who did not wish to be named, said some travelled across for the funeral.

"But as a group we wanted to pay our respects so we came from Belfast. He was just a legend; it's hard to put it into words," he said.

Another member of the group said the former deputy first leader was a "very intelligent man" who made Ireland a better place.

"There was a personal sense of grief as well; he was unique," the spokesman said.

A woman who travelled with her young children said she did so to show her family the grave.

Visitors at the grave of Martin McGuinness in Derry City Cemetery. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

"I wanted my children to see where a hero lies," the woman said.

With her children, she knelt in prayer at the foot of the grave and, before leaving, took time to tidy up floral arrangements.

"It has to be left tidy," she said.

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