The coffin of Martin McGuinness has left his home in Derry’s Bogside ahead of his funeral Mass.
Thousands of people packed the streets as the body of the former Sinn Féin deputy first minister and ex-IRA commander left his street for the final time.
Mr McGuinness’s wife Bernie and children, Grainne, Fionnuala, Fiachra and Emmet escorted the coffin out of their house on Westland Terrace, just off Westland Street. The 66-year-old died on Tuesday from a rare heart condition.
Family members assisted in shouldering the coffin as did senior Sinn Féin figures such as Gerry Adams, Sinn Féin’s Northern Ireland leader Michelle O’Neill and deputy party leader Mary Lou McDonald.
Close to the house Frances Black sang one of his favourite songs, Raglan Road while Matt Molloy of the Chieftains played a slow air on the flute.
Dignitaries including Taoiseach Enda Kenny, former US president Bill Clinton, President Michael D Higgins, Northern Secretary James Brokenshire, Nobel peace prize winner John Hume, PSNI chief Constable George Hamilton as well as Northern Ireland’s former first ministers Arlene Foster and Peter Robinsonare among those who gathered at the church.
A large Sinn Féin delegation including Gerry Adams, Northern Ireland leader Michelle O’Neill, deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald and a host of MLAs and TDs are also attending.
Mr Clinton was applauded as he made his way into St Columba’s church.
Ms Foster in an article in today’s Belfast Telegraph said she understood that some IRA victims would have misgivings but she wanted to pay “respect to his family”.
“Having worked with Martin McGuinness for almost a decade, I want to pay my respects to his family on the occasion of his death,” she wrote. “I recognise that some will be critical of my decision to attend this funeral and I respect their view.”
Meanwhile, former US president Barack Obama has added his voice to tributes to the former Sinn Féin minister, saying his leadership was “instrumental” during the peace process.
Mr Obama described Mr McGuinness who died on Tuesday of a rare heart illness as “a man who had the wisdom and courage to pursue peace and reconciliation for his people”.
“His leadership was instrumental in turning the page on a past of violence and conflict that he knew all too well.
“In our own meetings, I was always struck by his good humour and persistent belief in a better future for the people of Northern Ireland,” he added.
“May Martin rest in the peace that he pursued in life, and may his example inspire others to follow a path of reconciliation,” said Mr Obama.
Catholic Church and Sinn Féin sources indicated that apart from a Tricolour-draped coffin there would be no paramilitary display at the funeral.
A Church source also said Sinn Féin had given assurances there would be no heavy paramilitary exhibition at the City Cemetery where Mr McGuinness will be buried.
The chief celebrant at the funeral Mass will be Rev Michael Canney, while the Bishop of Derry, Dr Donal McKeown, will preside. Gerry Adams, the Sinn Féin president and a long-standing friend of Mr McGuinness, will deliver the oration at the graveside.
Mr Adams, speaking in Newry on Wednesday night, said Sinn Féin was determined to reach an agreement to restore the Northern Executive and Assembly by next Monday’s deadline for a deal.
“It is possible for agreement to be reached in the coming days. So, we will bury our friend Martin McGuinness tomorrow and move directly from his graveside to urgently do our utmost to get the Executive and the Assembly restored and working.
“Martin McGuinness made it clear that the way forward is through respect, equality, and integrity. Sinn Féin’s approach is not about majorities and minorities, it is about rights for all.”
By Irish Times