Born in 1950 in Derry, Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness grew up in the worst era for Catholics in Northern Ireland. They were discriminated against so badly in Protestant Northern Ireland that they emulated Black Americans such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. in setting up non-violent civil rights protests against the regime.
Through the 1960’s just as in America, the ruling class escalated the use of violence to break the protests. McGuinness joined the IRA and was, at only 21 years of age, the second in command of the Derry Provisional IRA when British Paratroopers murdered 14 civil rights protesters in Bloody Sunday.
He was imprisoned, treated as a terrorist by a British Regime under Maggie Thatcher. A British Government that seemed hell bent on destroying the nationalist cause by violence, intolerance and general all round hatefulness.
Elected to Stormont in 1982 in the wake of the hunger strikes and the death of Bobby Sands he, like all Sinn Féin, did not take his seat.
McGuinness went on to become the chief negotiator of the Good Friday Agreement and he took personal responsibility for disarming the IRA.
On this day, his birthday, in 1998 the people of Northern Ireland voted on the Agreement in a referendum. 75% of the people of Northern Ireland voted for peace.
Think about that. 25% of the Northern Irish wanted to continue the violence, the death and destruction. Who are these people?
McGuinness was cast by his enemies as a villain and a terrorist. But this is a man who worked tirelessly for peace all his life. A short life in the end. He passed away last year aged only 66.
Martin lived to see his life’s work come to fruition. Northern Ireland is not a finished object and there is a long road to go to reconciliation. That 25% of nay sayers is still up there looking to bring the whole thing crashing down about our ears. Don’t let them.