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|From: Irish Political Review: Editorials|
|Date: April, 2017|
Martin McGuinness, RIP
Martin McGuinness, RIP
Was Martin McGuinness a murderer who repented, promised not to do it again, and sought forgiveness and reconciliation with those whom he had mistakenly looked on as his enemies?
That is the impression BBC Radio 4 sought to convey to its listeners on the 7 am News on the morning of his death (21st March)—the main item on the bulletin being Jean McConville: followed by Peter Hain, who is now a Lord. What the Today programme says is of some consequence, as it reflects British ruling class thinking.
Lord Hain, interviewed on Radio Eireann about an hour later said that McGuinness and Gerry Adams had physically forced him into a corner at Stormont and threatened him.
What would have been the main item in the British News that morning if McGuinness had not died was an initiative taken by the Blairite Deputy Leader of the British Labour Party, Tom Watson, to wreck it rather than let it settle down under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership to be a Socialist Party once again. Hain, having helped to put the skids under his Party as a marginal Blairite, would not have been consulted by the media on the Party row. And the Party, absorbed in its own feud, would have had nothing to say about McGuinness. As a Party, it had washed its hands of Northern Ireland and cultivated ignorance of it.
Blair himself was interviewed about McGuinness around 8 am. And he brought a dose of reality into things. Martin was a military commander who became a statesman. What was astonishing about that? Isn't it how the world works?
Maybe he didn't put it quite like that, but by contrast with the sentimental waffle, that is what it sounded like.
Blair, for a brief moment, had been infinitely larger than the Labour Party. He had been bigger even than the Tory Party. He was a national statesman—the only one from the Labour side that has ever been since Ernest Bevin, who made it an enthusiastic warmongering Party in the late 1930s and then remade the British social structure during the War.
Blair reminded Britain that it was a war-fighting state. He set out to demonstrate that radical liberals could make war just as well as the Tories. Unfortunately he picked the wrong war to make and demonstrated only that the successful art of war-making is largely a matter of choosing the right war to make.
The amoral context in which he saw Northern Ireland deserted him when it came to Iraq. He reverted to abstract moralising about tyrants and came to grief. But his insight that war was normal for Britain, combined with the cult of personality by which he made the Labour Party a blunt instrument of his will, enabled him to deal realistically with the war-party in Northern Ireland and to negotiate a profound alteration of the devolved system—frankly intimidating David Trimble for the purpose.
So, violence pays, the BBC interviewer (John Humphries) said to him. He had the grace not to pretend to deny it
There was a War in Northern Ireland. Acts done in wartime are not equivalent to acts done in a democratic state in peace time. And wars are not fought within democratically-governed states—that is states governed by political means, in which the electorate can be as actively involved as it wants to be—from which it follows that Northern Ireland was not democratically governed.
Gerry Kelly was interviewed briefly on Radio 4. He said that McGuinness joined the IRA because there was no democratic means of reform available in Northern Ireland. The interviewer let the remark pass, rather than challenging it or agreeing with it.
It is very rarely that the BBC allows that fact to be stated in the downright manner that Gerry Kelly does well. And, when an embarrassing fact gets through in an interview, it is best to let it pass without comment. The implications of it are too awful to dwell on. And discussion of the point only makes it more memorable.
So, it is quite appropriate—if surprising—that the Irish flag was flown at half-mast over Leinster House in memory of the IRA military commander and statesman.
Thoughts on the Northern Election. Pat Walsh
Martin McGuinness, RIP. Editorial
Airstrip Two? Britain's Strategic Interest In Ireland. Donal Kennedy
Readers' Letters: Casement Diaries: Fact And Supposition. Paul Hyde
2017 Northern Ireland Assembly Election Summary. David Morrison
Brexit: John's Problem. Jack Lane
Asylum-Seekers in Ireland. Eamon Dyas
Glimmers in the Brexit debate. Dave Alvey
Northern Ireland: War And Its Exigencies. Brendan Clifford
Zimbabwe: a post-colonial episode. Brendan Clifford
European Council Blocks Positive Economic Governance. Manus O'Riordan
A Round Of The Irish Brexit debate. Dave Alvey (Part 2)
Commemorating Casement. Tim O'Sullivan (events, a song and an observation)
Deux: Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Pat Walsh (Part 2 of review of Andre Siegfried's England's Crisis)
State Funeral for Martin McGuinness?. Pat Muldowney (What the media did NOT report)
Standing Up. True North. Wilson John Haire (Poems)
President Trump's Military Budget. David Morrison
Cashless Society?. Report of Chris McCrohan letter
Mansergh And The Major Once Again. Jack Lane
Biteback: In Denial About Major McDowell's 'White Nigger' Remark Martin Mansergh, with unpublished response by John Martin
Does It Stack Up? Michael Stack (The media versus the Catholic Church)
Labour Comment: Protectionism And Fascism
State Funeral for Martin McGuinness?
What the media did NOT report.
The church service on 23rd March 2017 had some of the aura of an Official State Funeral. President Higgins was present with military aide-de-camp. Also ex-President McAleese, Taoisigh present and past, ex-President Clinton, Secretary of State Brokenshire, and local political leaders of various stripes, including former First Ministers of the Stormont Executive.
A large part of the Long Tower church event was conducted by senior Protestant religious figures with whom McGuinness had a close personal and working relationship. Unlike some such performances elsewhere, there was nothing smarmy, hypocritical, mawkish, forced or jarring about these contributions. Or so it seemed to me, anyway.
People from around 50 countries came to pay their respects, including Palestinians and American-Indians in full head-dress.
The "state funeral" aspect was less striking than the political aspect. That was because the funeral procession was also a parade in which the coffin was not driven, but carried shoulder-high from the McGuinness home to the Long Tower Church, and afterwards to the graveyard about a mile distant, through the streets where he grew up, and from which he sniped the British Army with deadly effect.
This procession involved a significant feat of crowd and ceremonial management. It was accomplished by an extensive, disciplined and effective Sinn Féin stewarding operation, including unobtrusive security control and checking of cars both parked and moving, up to some distance from the event itself. No police were involved, and the whole thing was strangely reminiscent of pre-1970 Civil Rights days in which whole communities turned out en masse, stewarded by Trade Union volunteers like Len Green.
The other aspect was the friends-and-family side of things which went on continuously from death to burial, including a wake of the corpse in the family home. This was open to anyone who wanted to come, and was a traditional, open house, cordial event.
Dignified and purposeful but not solemn, the whole occasion was plebeian-democratic rather than pomp-and-circumstance. In some ways Derry is more village than city. In speech, conduct and deportment, McGuinness was just like everybody else, and no particular deference was expected or granted to him when he was alive. In death his rituals conveyed respect and regard rather than adulation or deference.
The McGuinness household sustained itself economically by running a café in William Street where you were as likely as not to have your burger and chips cooked and served up to you by the wife of an international statesman/peacemaker and world-famous guerilla fighter. Nobody ever thought anything of this.
Funerals like those of Daniel O’Connell and Parnell played a notable part in Irish history. From what one reads about them these were very grand ceremonial affairs, perhaps not unlike Churchill’s or Margaret Thatcher’s. In contrast the McGuinness funeral came across as momentous but informal. Somehow, the right notes were struck.
Was it a political masterstroke like the O’Donovan Rossa funeral in 1915 when Patrick Pearse gave his famous oration: "The fools, the fools, the fools ..."? Time will tell.