Tim Farron comments on Martin McGuinness’ death

We woke this morning to the news that the former Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness had died.

There is no doubt that he was a significant figure in the peace process. It was quite incredible for me to see him as part of the power-sharing executive after my childhood had been punctuated with disturbing news reports from Northern Ireland. I can’t underestimate how unachievable the current peace seemed to be at that time. It was a remarkable achievement which took a great deal of international effort. It’s one of the things that we can be rightly proud of both John Major and Tony Blair for.

Martin McGuinness was pivotal in bringing about that peace and persuading others on his side of the divide to do so and for that he deserves respect.

Tim Farron had this to say on his death.

Martin McGuinness, for all his past, became a statesman. One moment sticks with me, the remarkable – and unlikely – images of McGuinness when he shook the hand of the Queen on her visit to Belfast in 2012. This single picture epitomised the changes in Northern Ireland.

This is something I, and millions of others, are thankful for. Peace in Northern Ireland is down, in part, to his leadership of the Republican community.

The Leader of our sister party, the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, Naomi Long, expressed her sadness:

On behalf of myself and my colleagues I would extend our heartfelt condolences to Bernie, to Martin’s children and to the wider family circle on Martin’s passing. They are very much in our thoughts and prayers at this sad time.

I want to pay tribute to the hard work and dedication Martin invested as an MLA and as deputy First Minister to serving not only his constituents, but all of Northern Ireland.

Whilst our politics were very different and his past is well documented, the compromises he made, the leadership he demonstrated and his willingness to work with others despite those differences as part of the peace process helped secure the peace we all now enjoy.

For that, we are grateful and our best tribute to him would be to do all in our power to secure that peace and progress for future generations.

UPDATE: The Lib Dems in Northern Ireland chair, Stephen Glenn, has written about Martin McGuinness’s death. This isn an extract:

While there have been some today who have only looked at the early part of his life as his legacy that have failed to realise that only a person from his position within the Irish Republican Army and Sinn Féin could have used his influence not only to bring about the ceasefire bit to sustain that. While at the start of his career he spoke about armed conflict being the only way forward, he ended it talking of reconciliation.

As the son of a man born like Martin into a community on the Cityside of Derry, although raised in the other working class community on opposite sides of the walled city, I’ve seen the change brough about by Martin.

The Rev David Latimer minister of the Glenn family church First Derry Presbyterian which overlooks the city walls into the Bogside has often spoken of Martin’s influence. This was a church that overlooked the site of the Bloody Sunday shootings, where shots, petrol or paint bombs were fired towards the church. It meant that in my early years when I entered the church even in the morning or afternoon it was dark because of the shutters protecting the windows at the front. When the roof needed replacing due to rot, Martin McGuinness was one of those who was reached out to even though he wasn’t elected for the area.

A hand of peace like that of the city’s famous statue was reached out and Martin was proactive not only in getting the support for the major building works but also in reducing the attacks on the church. He was there for the reopening of the building and the difference in brightness for me is a reflection of the hope he brought for a better future in Northern Ireland.

Yes the story of Martin McGuinness is a tangle of contrasts, but it is also proof that men are not leopards and can change their spots. But the legacy is his part along with Ian Paisley off making the impossible not only seem possible but turned it into a workable partnership of working together. We need that as much now as when they first stood side by side 10 years ago.

Comments on this post will be pre-moderated.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Richard Underhill 21st Mar '17 - 1:42pm

    BBC Radio 4 World At One has a long interview with John Major. Martha said that the secret talks had been happening during Margaret Thatcher’s time as PM. John Major did not confirm that, but he did not deny it either.

  • nvelope2003 21st Mar '17 - 3:51pm

    John Major struck a very sensible and reasonable tone as always. His moderation and practical common sense seem to be what upsets his detractors sadly. McGuiness did the right thing in the end for which we must be grateful.

  • When I was serving in Germany the baby daughter of an RAF Corporal was shot and killed by the IRA. The response from McGuinness and Gerry Adams was to say that families of british servicemen were legitimate targets. There was no regret or sadness from them about the murder of a innocent child.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 21st Mar '17 - 5:14pm

    Excellent responses ,the article , and particularly from Tim .

    We must continue to recognise the place of Sir John Major and Tony Blair in the development of Northern Ireland , the same motives guiding them to an extent on their staunch concerns re Brexit.

    We need to emphasise the importance of keeping our union of nations together. All these matters converge, EU, related, Scottish independence, the future of peace in Northern Ireland.

    Good and better people emerge in times difficult or not. Support for our sister party , the terrific Alliance Party of Northern Ireland must be strong by our party in the UK

  • Whilst there is no doubt that some good has come of his decision to enter the mainstream political process, he was nevertheless a terrorist who has significant blood on his hands. As @malc stated above he saw families of service personnel (including children) as legitimate targets. I remember well the tiny coffin of that particular legitimate target being carried home.

    He also refused to testify regarding Bloody Sunday or to provide answers on numerous atrocities committed by the PIRA many of which he would have ordered or have had the power to stop. By doing so, right up to his death, he continued to add to the pain of those affected.

    As someone who survived a terrorist act that claimed 11 of my my friends and colleagues I will not mourn him and I see the fawning words of some today as an insult to them and the many hundreds of others whose lives were needlessly slain by McGuinness and his ilk.

    He lived 55 years longer than the youngest of my friends and nearly 28 years on we await a single charge in relation to the incident in question. The “justice” so far in the peace process has been very one sided. There has been too little truth to allow reconciliation, and from him there was no contrition or repentance for many of us to contemplate forgiveness.

  • Sorry a typo (oh for an edit function) it should have read he lived 45 years longer than the youngest of my friends….

  • Richard Underhill 21st Mar '17 - 10:23pm

    We should give some credit to Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, awarded the Liberal International prize for freedom, visiting Northern Ireland and meeting Gerry Adams, tea with The Queen at Buckingham Palace and inviting the Queen’s visit to the Republic, which was successful.

  • David Evershed 22nd Mar '17 - 3:11am

    Martin McGuinness was driven to the negotiating table by the success of the British Army and Security forces.

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Mar '17 - 12:32pm

    The sad lesson from Northern Ireland is that one way to political success is to behave in a completely unreasonable way causing social division to grow, in order to destroy the more moderate politicians.

    Then once you have done that, take over and do what the moderates would have done in the first place.

    I believe that had it not been for Sinn Féin and the IRA, orange Unionism in Northern Ireland would have gone the same way it went in Scotland. No wonder Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley became good friends. They worked together throughout their lives to destroy those were more decent people so in the end they could come together and share power.

    Yes, the Catholic community in Northern Ireland suffered from severe discrimination and unfair treatment in what led to the Troubles. No, there was no justification for using violence to put that point across. The situation fell far short of what under Catholic teaching is regarded as the situation of a “just war”. Therefore, supporting that violence counts as what Catholic teaching calls a “mortal sin”.

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Mar '17 - 4:32pm

    “Martin McGuinness was pivotal in bringing about that peace and persuading others on his side of the divide to do so and for that he deserves respect.”
    It was always a puzzle as to how the process would deal with dissenting, violent people. Would it be possible to use a reformed police force in Northern Ireland? or would they fear the Provisional IRA using its own methods?

  • A Social Liberal 24th Mar '17 - 2:32am

    A bomb exploded in Strabane yesterday, very nearly causing several police casualties. Another bomb exploded just a month ago, around the time a policeman serving with the PSNI was shot and almost killed. A year ago a policeman serving with the PSNI succumbed to wounds sustained when a bomb was placed under his car.

    As the former terrorist, Gerry Adams, said, “[they] haven’t gone away you know”.

  • Further to my comment, for the record I do not believe that IRA violence can be justified but unless it was to go on forever there had to be talks and an agreed settlement, however distasteful, but I understand that those who suffered will never be reconciled to terrorism. It is awful that terrorism often seems to pay and that Irish nationalists regard it as justifiable but there have been faults on both sides and British rule in Ireland was not always just and sometimes cruel. I suppose one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.

  • Richard Underhill 24th Jul '18 - 1:27pm

    After the retirement of Gerry Adams as President of Sinn Fein (but not (yet) as a member of the Irish parliament, the Dail) the future has arrived. Sinn Fein has been willing to take seats in the Assembly, before the most recent elections, but subsequently the body has not met, which is a pity because the election by the single transferable vote ensures a fairer method of representation than first past the post, the method used for MPs. One bizarre consequence is that the leader of the DUP is not an MP. She has an opportunity to become one. Ian Paisley (Junior) is in trouble over Sri Lanka and may want to defend his Westminster seat in Antrim in a bye-election.

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