Stephen Daisley Stephen Daisley

Martin McGuinness – a man who put the ballot before bullets

Ulster is where memory burns long and forgiveness comes slow. The death of Martin McGuinness will pass without the spilling of sorrow by many Unionists in Northern Ireland and here in mainland Britain, where the IRA’s terror campaign paid regular, outrageous visits, there will be those who mutter a cold ‘good riddance’. 

Douglas Murray writes

‘[W]hile the eulogists lament the fact that McGuinness hasn’t enjoyed much of his old age, our thoughts really ought to be with the many people who – thanks to McGuinness and his friends – never made it as far as middle age.’

This is undoubtedly true. McGuinness was a terrible man who did terrible things and the good things he did in later years did not change that. 

I grew up in Coatbridge, the Lanarkshire town once known as ‘Little Ireland’ for the size of its Catholic population of Irish descent. Although by the 1990s popular republicanism was mostly of the folk variety — rebel songs and walls etched in Tiocfaidh ár lá — McGuinness (and Gerry Adams) were still admired by the old, who had learned about sectarianism in the streets rather than the history books, and the young, who wanted to rebel against their integrated, more prosperous parents. 

None of this touched me. In fact, it baffled me. To me, the IRA were not the romantic heroes of self-pitying ballads; Bobby Sands was nothing more than a terrorist who committed suicide. So no, I won’t lament the death of Martin McGuinness, other than to acknowledge the grief his loved ones will be feeling. But I have to take issue with Douglas on something. He writes

‘Over recent years a narrative has developed around the Troubles, that the people who ‘became men of peace’ are much to be admired.

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