At the beginning of his adult life, Martin McGuinness was responsible for grotesque attacks and for numerous cases of human lives wasted and ended without justification. We should never forget that.
Yet there was truth in Ian Paisley’s words that what matters is how you end your life; and in David’s Trimble’s that we would face the future with greater optimism if Martin McGuinness were still at the helm of Sinn Féin in the Assembly. We should not forget that either.
Human beings are capable of extraordinary feats of wickedness, and these should never be written out of the history books. However, they are also capable of remarkable change. We should indeed be grateful that Mr McGuinness decided to change; to put his undoubted charisma and leadership skills to much less destructive and more effective use than he did in his early years. For there is also truth in the straightforward old cliche that you do not make peace with your friends.
Indeed, we may note that grotesque destruction and appalling wickedness would surely have gone on in Northern Ireland with or without Mr McGuinness. But it is possible peace would not have advanced so far without him.
We are without him now. I trust that Sinn Féin’s next generation of leaders will find the willingness and ability to take us forward, not back; to move towards stability, not chaos; and actually to govern responsibly, not retreat to the sidelines.
Let us all be peacemakers now.