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Michelle O'Neill leads tributes to Martin McGuinness at Stormont

22 March, 2017 - by Michelle O'Neill

Speaking in tribute to Martin McGuinness in the Assembly today Sinn Féin Leader in the North Michelle O'Neill said:

"I am only too proud to stand here today to say a few words about our friend Martin McGuinness. My comments are on behalf of all our Sinn Féin team here in the Assembly Chamber today and, indeed, on behalf of all our party right across the island of Ireland.

"Martin McGuinness was a political visionary. He played a key and enormous part in delivering fundamental change in this society and in transforming the relationships on this island and between these islands. He was a gifted political strategist and orator, a thinker and an occasional angler when he got the chance. In an earlier life, he was a talented footballer, or at least that is what he told us.

"For the Sinn Féin MLAs in this Chamber and for the Irish republican family across this island and beyond, he was our leader. He was our inspiration, our role model and, above all else, our dear and valued friend. So it is with a broken heart, but a heart that is bursting with pride, that I have the honour and privilege to pay tribute to him today.

"I send all our love to Bernie, Gráinne, Fionnuala, Fiachra and Emmett and the wider McGuinness clan. He was our leader, but he was your daddy, your husband, your grandad and your brother. 

"We are very conscious of your pain, and we will never forget the sacrifices that you made through many long and difficult years of struggle, during which Martin, as always, led from the front. I hope that you can take some comfort from the knowledge that Martin gave so much of his life, his time and his energy to make the lives of others better and to build a better future for all our people.

"Martin grew up in the poverty of the Bogside. He witnessed discrimination, inequality and oppression. He did not look away or run away from the challenges. With others in his generation, he decided to confront these injustices. The struggle for equality, respect and self-determination for the people of this island became his life's work. His leadership and the example he set will continue to inspire those of us who are determined to build a better future for all generations to come.

"As in so many things, Martin set the standard. He challenged us all constantly to do more by always doing more himself, by always going further and challenging himself and all of us to reach out to our political opponents. He believed that society should be judged by how it treats the most vulnerable citizens, and he stood up for those who needed his help and support time and time again. He forced people out of comfort zones. He took bold initiatives to drive the peace and political processes forward. In his last public appeal, he urged people to choose hope over fear — to put equality and respect for all our people at the heart of the power-sharing institutions. That should be the clarion call for all in this Chamber in the weeks, months and years ahead.

"The legacy that Martin wished was for a better future based on equality and measured by the joy and laughter of all our children. So, on behalf of Sinn Féin, I rededicate our party to completing his life's work and to living through his legacy."

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