I propose to start with the Sinn Féin Party's contribution if that is acceptable to the House. Is that agreed? Agreed.
Death of Martin McGuinness: Expressions of Sympathy
I thank the Leader for allowing this time this evening. I spoke about this earlier but, again, I want to express my heartfelt sympathies to Bernie and Martin's children, Fiachra, Emmet, Fionnuala and Grainne. Our sympathy and solidarity are with them in these difficult days ahead. Many republicans across Ireland and friends of Irish unity worldwide will be mourning the passing of Martin McGuinness.
To me, Martin McGuinness was a warm, kind and generous human being with a huge social and emotional intelligence which enabled him to reach out to form relationships, friendships and partnerships with people who had different opinions to his from the unionist community and many other communities throughout the world. Many people from different political perspectives admired and recognised his ability as a statesman and politician.
His first stint as education Minister saw him make the momentous decision to scrap academic selection at the age of 10. This was done out of genuine concern for the education of those from disadvantaged backgrounds such as his. Teachers in the Six Counties still speak with genuine affection of his time as a Minister. The turnout in the Bogside in Derry this afternoon was a sign of the regard in which the people of his native town held him. His family were the centre of his life. He often spoke of how he would travel home to Derry from Stormont, no matter how late in the day he finished. His one wish was to return home each evening to the family for whom he cared so much. Today his extended family and friends showed just how much he means to them.
The one constant in Martin's life was republicanism. It was much more than a political label to him. It was an embodiment of freedom, equality and unity. It was not easy to be a republican in the 1970s in Derry, from the arrival of the British military campaign, which brought death and havoc to the streets of Derry, to the long years of struggle and the move towards conflict resolution. I thought the former President, Mary McAleese, put it very well in context when she spoke earlier today. I want to thank the many people from all political sides and none who have expressed sympathies on the passing of Martin. The republican struggle brought many difficulties with it and Martin did not shy away from any of it. From his role as an IRA volunteer to a peacemaker, Martin faced difficulties, even in recent years when he spearheaded efforts at national reconciliation. There were obstacles facing him then.
Thankfully, it is now a safer Ireland in which to be a republican. There were many tough times of British oppression and aggression when republicans looked for leadership. Martin provided that leadership. That democratic space in which we as republicans operate now was carved out by the intellect, effort and basic human goodness of Martin McGuinness.
We will dearly miss Martin as a comrade and a leader. However, from talking to many republicans today, we are more determined than ever to achieve those very things dear to Martin, namely, freedom, equality and unity. People often talked of his endless energy and resolve. I have no doubt his desire for freedom, equality and unity will spur us on in Sinn Féin to achieve a better, fairer and truly united Ireland. Bobby Sands said that everyone has a part to play. Martin McGuinness certainly played his part and played it very well. For that, I will always be eternally grateful. I know many others will too. Go raibh síocháin ar a anam Gaelach.
I thank Senator Conway-Walsh for that truly heartfelt expression of condolence.
On behalf of the Fianna Fáil group in the Seanad and on my own behalf, I extend my sincere sympathies to the McGuinness family and to the wider Sinn Féin Party on the loss of Martin McGuinness. It is a very sad and difficult time for his wife, Bernie, and his children, Fiachra, Emmet, Fionnuala and Grainne. I hope they take some comfort today from the genuine and kind words contained in many of the tributes acknowledging the tireless work and personal commitments their father gave to the peace process on our island. For their father's work and the work of others, we in the Fianna Fáil Party are very grateful.
As has been reiterated already, Martin's death represents a sad moment in the shared history of this island. Martin was heavily involved in the IRA’s army council for many years of the Troubles. When in later years he converted to full-time politics, he brought many hardened IRA members with him to ensure the ultimate success of the peace process. History will remember Martin McGuinness as a committed peacemaker. At this time, however, we cannot forget those who lost their lives during the Troubles and their families who will also be grieving today.
I met Martin McGuinness last July in the soldiers’ gymnasium in Richmond Barracks at the unveiling of a statue to Francis Ledwidge, who was fittingly a member of the Irish Volunteers and wrote the well-known poem, “Lament for Thomas MacDonagh”. At that time, Martin spoke of his republican friends whose grandfathers had fought with the British Army at the Battle of the Somme and said there had been a national amnesia about what happened during the First World War. It is only right that we get over it.
Meeting him in person on that July day, I was struck by his warmth and kindness. During our brief chat afterwards, I got a small insight into his personality and how he won people over by his generosity of spirit and charisma. I hope Martin's work in the peace process will inspire others and all of us to follow his legacy and to continue to build on the strong foundations he laid down, as well as continuing to build strong relations between all traditions on this island. Peace on this island can never be taken for granted. We must all strive to continue his work to preserve it. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
I express my sympathy to Martin McGuinness's wife, family and to his colleagues in both Houses of the Oireachtas. From talking to several of his colleagues today, I know how profound and sad his passing has been for them and their work.
When one looks at his legacy, it is complex to say the least. He had a remarkable journey. He finished school at the age of 15 and passed away at 66. That is a short life. I was thinking how short that life was because he seemed to be always there. However, when one looks at the facts, from the age of 15 to 66, he spent most of his life as what people term a “republican”. Today is not a day for a debate about the true values of what a republic is. However, all Members in both Houses are republicans in the true meaning of what it means. A republic values all, gives equal opportunity to all, and allows all, no matter how diverse they are, to express their points of view and where they have come from. Everyone has that right, regardless of whatever tradition or culture they come from, to express their views. It is right that they are at least listened to and appreciated.
One of the remarkable things for me about Martin McGuinness was that he was a man who acknowledged his membership of the IRA and never denied it. Terrible things happened to people on all sides during what we call the Northern Troubles and so many families lost loved ones on all sides. There were so many conspiracies, double deals, double talks and mistrust on all sides of the argument and of the debate.
In many ways, Martin crossed swords, literally, with many people. He had his own vision of the Ireland he wanted to see. That was his right. He articulated that and stood by it. Time and time again, he proved in the end that he had the ability to bring people with him. That must have been personally difficult for him because he had to convince and persuade others to change course, to abandon certain policies and ideologies to go forward.
That is not an easy thing to do in politics or anywhere else. He renounced, and had to renounce, his earlier political arguments and convictions because he saw another way and he led another way. To his credit, we have to give him that.
He ultimately accepted that a ceasefire was necessary to open talks for peace which led to the Good Friday Agreement. We will always have to acknowledge that.
In the last years of his life, he worked tirelessly as a peacemaker. As Martin's family and friends prepare for what is going to be a Christian funeral, I am reminded of some words from the Beatitudes. Someone might ask what an Anglican is doing looking up the Beatitudes. I took the time to look at them today because when I was coming in this morning, I found myself dwelling on "blessed are the peacemakers". For those who profess to be Christian, and live by the Christian principles and wish to follow the Christian burial or funeral rite, they would believe in some of these things. I want to reflect on two short sentences from that. "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the peacemakers." He has indeed left us a legacy. How one chooses to interpret that is a matter for themselves. May he rest in peace.
I understand Senator Dolan and Senator Alice-Mary Higgins are sharing time. There was originally an idea that only one person from each group would speak but because people wish to speak, I will not stop that.
On behalf of the Civil Engagement group, I express our sympathies to the McGuinness family, to Martin's wife, his children and grandchildren. Last autumn, I found myself grieving for somebody else called Martin, a great disability advocate and leader. I am not raising that for any other reason than to make the point that maybe I have some sense of the rawness, grief and loss of Martin's family and of those who loved him, those who worked and struggled with him and, indeed, those who might not have been of his persuasion who came to respect him in more recent years.
I met Martin once in Glenties at the MacGill summer school. We had dinner together with some other people. When he started to talk to me about his fishing, I began to get a bit upset that I was eating a fish myself at the time. That did not prove to be a problem.
Martin clearly had an easy way with people. In that sense, he was born to be a politician. If times had been different, that might have been a path taken earlier by him.
I have often thought what I would have done if I saw the guardians of the peace of the Republic of Ireland, the Garda Síochána, or indeed the armed forces, come into my community and behave in a way that was quite the opposite of the way they should. We should consider that people found themselves not only without the support of those who were supposed to protect them but also quite the opposite.
Martin was so important for conflict resolution but more so in peace building. That is how I would like to remember him. I do not know how his beloved wife, Bernie, his partner all his whole life with all the ups and downs, and his children will cope and deal with this. It will be the kindness of people and their support that will bring her and the others through this.
May he rest in peace. My sympathies to all those who knew Martin and grieve his passing.
I join in expressing condolences and paying tribute to the contribution which Martin McGuinness made to the lives of all on this island in moving through our history and shaping our future together. In my small number of encounters with him, Martin McGuinness was a very warm, generous and engaging person. He was somebody who knew what it was to live in history and have the weight of history on him and yet to rise continually to the challenge of each moment and to the new challenge of each moment.
We have heard of the contribution Martin McGuinness made in recognising that permanent conflict was not the answer in bringing an end to violence in Northern Ireland and negotiating the Good Friday Agreement. There has been much talk of the historic moment of his handshake with the UK Head of State, Queen Elizabeth II. While that was a historic moment, alongside that was the great challenge of all the many other moments of building and sustaining relationships, of being able to work in partnership with Ian Paisley and David Trimble and so many others. That is something that needs to be commemorated because that can be the greatest challenge, to go again and again into each new situation and to overcome constant obstacles with a genuine faith in the importance of institution building, peace building, and community regeneration and engagement. What made him able to have those meaningful relationships across all sides was the honesty he brought to his approach and his acknowledgement of suffering - the suffering of his own community and that of other communities - as well as his ability to acknowledge good intent and that it could come from each different side.
Seamus Heaney spoke of hope and history. It is something that Martin McGuinness quoted at length himself, but he never took for granted the power and the fragility of democracy and peace. Having been at sporting, musical and cultural occasions with him, I saw that he really cherished the dividend of democratic engagement and of the peace process. Having been radicalised to a large extent by his experiences in the terrible events of Bloody Sunday, it meant a huge amount to him to see Derry as a city of culture, to see it recognised in its full potential, and to see it as an example of what the full flowering of community across the island could be.
We heard about the journey he had taken. It is incredibly sad to think that there will not be, as there should be, a further chapter in his journey, one where he would have time with his family and in which he could contribute in further and different ways, having given literally all of his life to the challenge of trying to build a republic in different ways.
I note Martin McGuinness's comments in 2012 when he spoke of the journey we all have to take. That is a journey that we, on this island, are still on. It is a journey from the past, because there are many who are still bereaved and there are many who still have questions that need answers. There are many raw residues of our conflict that still need resolution. Most crucially, however, he will be missed in the future given the challenges we have now to work together to build peace, recognising that peace is both precious and fragile, not only on our island but across Europe and the world, to work for democracy, to recognise the democratic institutions and the need to build, restore and earn trust and inspire participation, and to have the ongoing debate about what a real republic might be and how we can deliver and be part of a republic together.
I celebrate Martin McGuinness's contribution and pass my deepest condolences to Bernadette and his family.
Is le croí trom atá mé ag éirí anseo tráthnóna le cúpla focal a rá in ómós do Martin McGuinness, fear a chur mé aithne air le roinnt blianta anuas agus fear a raibh ard-mheas agam air ón aithne a chur mé air. Ba mhaith liom mo chomhbhrón féin a chur in iúl do Bhernie, Fiachra, Emmet, Fionnuala agus Grainne. Ní bheidh aon duine in ann an folús pearsanta sin atá fágtha i ndiaidh Martin McGuinness a líonadh, táim cinnte. Ní bheidh aon duine in ann an folús poiblí a líonadh ach an oiread.
It is very hard to find words that would do justice to the personality that was Martin McGuinness. The best thing I can do is share some personal insights and stories from times I spent with him. When he was running in the presidential election of 2011, I received a telephone call from management to say I was needed on the campaign bus. When I asked what was going on, they said Martin had to go on TG4 and speak in Irish for one minute and that he needed somebody to help him. They were two of the best days I ever spent. They were absolutely fantastic. For a man who had been through so many challenges in life and involved in so many difficult and sticky situations, the thing that terrified him most was having to speak for one minute in Irish on TG4. He told me he had never had the opportunity to learn Irish in school, which he had always regretted. He worked really hard to get the few words right.
Many would credit Martin McGuinness with possibly swinging the presidential election campaign in the way of Michael D. Higgins in the famous moment with Seán Gallagher on the TV programme which is now a piece of history. Perhaps President Michael D. Higgins has a lot to be thankful for also. It was very important that Martin had stood in that election. As somebody from outside the Twenty-six Counties who could not vote, he raised the issue of voting rights for people living in the North. He also brought to the fore in the debate legacy issues.
On the bus Martin also told me some very funny stories, as can happen when people are on a bus together for a couple of hours and fall into conversation. He told me about what had happened when the Assembly was initially being set up and how difficult it was to talk to people, as they would walk out of the room as soon as he walked in. On one occasion there was a particular unionist politician who was standing at a urinal in the men's bathroom and could not walk out. Martin struck up a conversation with him and as soon as the unionist politician had finished his business, he dutifully left. It is amazing how the initial reticence to even communicate was overcome by the magnanimity of Martin's personality.
Martin also had a wonderful story to tell about a visit by a number of political groups to South Africa. It took place under the auspices of the African National Congress to discuss the ongoing peace process. They were being brought somewhere way out in the sticks. We think Connemara is remote, but this place was really at the back of the beyonds. It was insisted on that there be two buses, one for the unionists and other for the nationalists, but one of them broke down. I cannot remember which, but they all had to share the same bus for the rest of the journey. Apparently, there was reticence to sit next to each other on the bus. Martin saw in it great humour; he saw it as part of the building of relationships between people.
While Martin McGuinness was a Northern politician, he was revered and loved across the country, as we saw in Galway during the presidential election campaign. A huge crowd came to listen to him in Salthill. I have received so many messages from people in the west in the past few hours who are genuinely sorry to see him go. We are speaking for them also.
Another seminal moment was when I was invited to a private meeting with Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Prince Charles at NUIG. I had to pinch myself because I could not believe I was watching history happen. It was incredible how people who had been foes for so many years were able to shake hands and have talks about the future. There was a genuine sense of openness and, actually, a sense of fun. Once the formalities were over, there was a little banter. Obviously, it was Martin who started it by talking about Gerry Adams's affinity with nature, his love of hugging trees and the like. The conversation moved to fly fishing, in which both Prince Charles and Martin had a great interest. It was a measure of the man that he had moved so far forward in that relationship. It was something to savour, learn from and look up to.
We were attending one of our pre-session think-ins in County Louth, I think, when news came through that Ian Paisley Snr. had passed away. Martin was genuinely saddened. He had built a real friendship with him and was truly sorrowful.
For the past five years there has been a standing call from us in this Chamber that the First Minister and the deputy First Minister from the Northern Ireland Assembly be invited to attend. I understand there are diplomatic factors that influence whether such things can come to fruition. Nonetheless, I am saddened that we never got the opportunity to have the First Minister and Martin, in his role as deputy First Minister, in the Seanad Chamber to share some of their experiences. Martin stood on the core principles and values of republicanism, equality and so on. It is very telling that even in his last days he was still calling for full implementation of the international agreements, particularly in areas such as Acht na Gaeilge, which is ironic as he was not a fluent Gaeilgeoir.
Mention has been made about what happened in the past in Derry when Martin was a young man. As somebody who had a relatively trouble-free existence, having been brought up in England before moving to Connemara, I often wonder what I would have done if I had been raised on the Bogside in the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s. Would I have done anything differently from him and the likes of him? As Senator Victor Boyhan said, they did see brutality. It is very easy for us to judge but hard to say what we might have done. It is to Martin's credit that he always called for a truth and reconciliation process. It is one of the things which he said was absolutely needed in order that those hurt by the conflict on all sides could be heard and that the process of healing could commence. He also called for open recognition of LGBT and women's rights in the North.
Táimid anseo anocht le céiliúradh a dhéanamh ar fhathach fir. Fear a sheas an fód gan fuacht ná faitíos, a raibh an-mheas againn air agus a bhí mar chara agus comrádaí a bhí abálta i gcónaí treoir agus comhairle a chur ar fáil dúinn.
The one thing I always remember about being in Martin's company is that I always came out with a smile on my face. He always left people with a smile no matter how serious the issues involved. It was a pleasure to have known him. Guímid leaba dó i measc na n-aingeal anocht.
We are here to commemorate the passing of Martin McGuinness. I believe it is safe to say all of us present in the Chamber, even though we are from different political traditions, love our country and want the best for it and its people, North and South. It is also fair to say the British did not treat the Irish, North and South, very well, as history tells us. People took different paths and, at least at the beginning of his career, Martin took the path to violence. Others chose peaceful means. Objectively, he was a man who inflicted and oversaw a campaign of murder and pain in the name of a cause. Thankfully, he went on to correct it. He took the correct path to ensure future generations would not have to go down the path to violence. He also helped to create the environment that allowed people on this island to live in peace. He played a major role in the peace process and we have to acknowledge and be very grateful for what he did. It showed considerable bravery on his part to step away from the vicious cycle of violence. His legacy will be best served by the continuation of the peace process.
Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh talked about truth and reconciliation. There has to be truth for victims on all sides to find a sense of justice. Truth is the foundation of justice and leads to reconciliation, as has happened in many countries to good effect. I would definitely support such a process.
At a human level, we are all judged on the context and times that were in it.
I would acknowledge the times and the environment in which he lived. The Bogside in Derry was very difficult. That gives context to his actions and early career.
It is better to remember not how that political career began but how it ended. I pay tribute to him and to his memory for that. May he rest in peace. I join in the expressions of sympathy and condolences to his family on their very considerable personal loss at this time.
I would like to be associated with all these warm, genuine and well-deserved tributes to Martin. We know he had a most pleasant personality. He was always kind and courteous. I met him first at Free Derry Corner in the 1980s - he was there along with Councillor Shaun Gallagher, a Derry city councillor - on one of my visits to Derry and I always enjoyed going up there. I will not be repetitive. He deserves all that has been said. We know he was a tireless champion for peace and reconciliation and he achieved so much. I would like to be associated with the expression of deepest sympathy to his wife, Bernie, and family. Ar dheis Dé go raibh an anam dílis.
I put the following message up on Facebook this morning. It states:
Notwithstanding the fact that those claiming to speak for the IRA in 1974 put my family through hell, I am deeply saddened at the passing of Martin McGuinness. It took two men who wanted peace, McGuinness and Paisley, to find in their hearts the wherewithal to commence the journey of understanding of each other's tradition. They together put the foundations in place for peaceful co-existence of all traditions on this island. I pray that the leap of faith both men took will not be squandered. May Martin McGuinness rest in everlasting peace.
I did not intend to speak tonight but I read that message into the record for a specific reason. I was a member of the Royal Irish Rangers and in 1974 in Derry, Ranger Best was taken from his house, brought into Donegal and shot. I have had many messages from people today asking about those who are missing and where are they, and I can understand that. I raise this matter tonight because of the other contacts I have had from former members of the Royal Irish Rangers, who would be on the unionist side, who are deeply committed unionists, who marched in the Orange parades and who are deeply committed to unionism on all sides, expressing their sympathy to me on Martin McGuinness's death. That speaks volumes. That ties in to what has been said. Let us remember the end of his political career rather than the beginning of it. The fact that people I know to be deeply committed to unionism could find it in their hearts today to contact me and express sympathy at the passing of this man is a tremendous tribute to him.
I will finish on this point as it was agreed a few Members would contribute to these expressions. Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley, the two founding members who built the foundation for the peace process between them, are both now gone. We now have two new leaders and currently we have no Assembly in Northern Ireland. We must be careful about the risk of the development of a vacuum. I sincerely hope that on the unionist side, Ian Paisley's generosity is not forgotten and that on the nationalist side, Martin McGuinness's generosity is not forgotten. I feel deeply sorry for the McGuinness family to have lost a man so young. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
I only want to add a few comments. An awful lot has already been said. Like many people, I got my first impressions of Martin McGuinness from his appearances on television, in particular that strange time which we may have forgotten when we could see but not hear him on television and an actor's voice spoke for him. Those were strange times both here and in Britain where I found that was still the practice when I went back there to work. It is a measure of how far we have come that Martin went on to lead the peace process, build the peace and, more than that, build a roadmap for a peaceful path to unity, and not any kind of unity but an inclusive republic based on the best progressive principles.
I also want to say - I hope Members will understand this as I believe it is important - that I am proud of all of Martin and his career. I am proud of the fact that he stood up to defend his community in the 1970s. My family who were living in London at the time were very proud to see men like Martin McGuinness stand up and be counted when that community was under attack and, as Gerry Adams said so truthfully today, Martin never brought war to the North, the war came to Martin and to his community. Equally, there was his passion for peace and to build peace throughout the 1990s and beyond, and his powerful speeches at our Ard-Fheiseanna have always stayed with me. He would have been the lead speaker on a Friday night and he was always reaching out, always stretching and always building his vision of an inclusive republic. Certainly in my recent trips to Belfast, it was clear that this has had a huge impact across communities. It is great that this has been acknowledged by all parties here.
It is also worth remembering his very dignified role in the presidential election. It is easy to forget that he suffered huge attacks from the media at that time; they were relentless and nasty at times. He met each of those attacks with dignity and respect and he built bridges again during that campaign. As alluded to by my colleague, Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, he played a very influential part in making sure that we have an excellent President today in Michael D. Higgins. I referred to the horrible section 31 ban but fair play to Michael D. Higgins as the man who repealed it and played his part in building peace and progress in our country.
To conclude, I want to recognise the great man that Martin McGuinness was, as a freedom fighter, as a statesman, as a peacemaker and above all as a republican.
I want to offer my sincere condolences to the family of Martin McGuinness and to his colleagues here in the Sinn Féin Party. I had the honour of meeting him only last year at the time of the general election when David Cullinane was elected in Waterford. Within a short time of his election, Martin McGuinness arrived down to Waterford in the south east to acknowledge David's election and to support him. I had a few moments with Martin at that time. I had stood as a candidate and in the course of our conversation I told him I had worked with Greenpeace and I had been on the Rainbow Warrior . Immediately he reacted and said, "I am so sorry for the loss of your friend". He had an experience back in 1985 and was able to refer to it. He was a man of tremendous experience and had quite a complex life. I sincerely hope his legacy of peace will be brought forward by his party, North and South, and that peace and justice will prevail in this country for ever more. That would be the best legacy of Martin McGuinness and his memory. I offer my sincerest condolences to his family and to the Sinn Féin Party.
To Bernie, Fiachra, Emmett, Fionnuala and Grainne, we extend our sympathies. They have lost a husband, a father, a grandfather. We have seen the passing of an extraordinary Irish man.
He was a man who negotiated with the British in his early 20s and who fought the British. Those who opposed him saw him as a worthy adversary as well as the enemy. He was a man who thought about the future. Then, when it was time to sue for peace and when it was necessary for a ceasefire he was able to make the journey.
He saw events like Bloody Sunday and the treatment of his fellow citizens in Derry. As anyone would, he took up the struggle that had been taken up by many in previous generations. When necessary, he went through the negotiation process and led it. He shook hands with the Queen when many questioned whether he should. As ever, he was a man ahead of his time. He sought equal rights and opportunity as well as equality. Many have said that he made an extraordinary journey. While that is true, it is equally true that he led others on an extraordinary journey and that journey continues today.
As Leader of the House and as leader of the Fine Gael Party in the House, I join every Senator who has spoken tonight in paying tribute and sympathising with the family of the late Martin McGuinness.
Like Senator Grace O'Sullivan, I met Martin McGuinness during an election count in Cork last year. We were being interviewed on radio as I was about to be eliminated. He extended the hand to me. He sympathised and said that it was better to fight and lose than not fight at all.
I met him in Logan International Airport, Boston, several years prior to that meeting. My time in his company was full of laughter even though we shared different political viewpoints. I am a republican who wants to see a united Ireland - I said as much on Newstalk this afternoon. We may have differed in our approaches to politics and how we achieve the end result.
Today, when I woke up and heard the news, I was actually saddened. I was listening to Newstalk and RTE in the car on the way up. I listened to the various people who knew him well, including Denis Bradley, Mary McAleese and people in Sinn Féin. I was struck by the impression that he was a man – I will come back to why I am saying this in a moment – who saw and witnessed what happened in Derry. Classmates of mine in the seminary had friends or family involved in the IRA. They always discussed what or how would we do it. In many ways, it was easy for those of us living in the South and away from the North to say that the path of non-violence was easy.
We can always admire people like John Hume and Seamus Mallon for the bravery they showed. We can admire people like David Trimble and Ian Paisley because they came on a journey. Senator Feighan referred to the commentary in The Irish Times today on Martin McGuinness as a man of war and a man of peace. He reached out as a politician and as a member of Sinn Féin and the IRA. He recognised that there was a bigger and perhaps a more advantageous route. Notwithstanding this, what I admire about him on one level is that he never hid from his past. He never ducked and dived. He admitted it and he recognised the importance of what he did for himself, even though others may have disagreed with him. He reached out to his opponents and extended the hand of friendship. Senator Ó Clochartaigh spoke about building bridges. That was the theme of Mary McAleese's presidency. Martin McGuinness reached out and built bridges. I was struck by the remarks of David Ford on the radio today, as well as by the letter David Trimble wrote to Martin McGuinness in which he stated that Mr. McGuinness was indispensable to the peace process. As Senator Mulherin has said, he worked in his political life to bring peace to our island. My friends in the seminary often said that peace was about a long Grand National. That phrase was used by one of my friends who is a priest in the North. He said that we fall at some fences but we get up and keep going. As the Taoiseach said in the Dáil today, Mr. McGuinness travelled the road to peace.
I know there are victims of violence who have a different view to many of us today. Tonight is about recognising the man who recognised that, for those of us who seek a united Ireland, the process is about getting there through dialogue and peace. This evening, Bill Clinton spoke nicely of how Martin McGuinness refused to live in the past. Perhaps, as Senator Conway-Walsh said, that will be his legacy. We must finish the job. I exhort all of us as politicians to finish the job that was set off by so many.
It is fair to say that, as Northern Ireland deputy First Minister and Minister of Education, he left the North in a better place. His legacy will be one of bringing so many to the table for dialogue. As Gerry Adams said today, he was the man they picked to go and negotiate.
I have listened to the personal and heartfelt tributes from the Members opposite from Sinn Féin. This person was passionate and convincing and he was a leader.
I hope that we can see an end to sectarianism and the fulfilment of the dreams of all of us in this country.
The biggest loss will be that felt by his wife and family. On behalf of myself, the Fine Gael Party and everyone in the House I extend our sympathies. Others will write and history will judge. Ultimately, however, if Martin McGuinness did not have the courage to place his hand in the hand of Ian Paisley or to walk in the peace process, then we might not be here today. Death is not the end. Death can never be the end. Death is the road, life is the traveller and the soul is the guide. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
When it is proposed to sit again?
Ar 10.30 maidin amárach.