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FULL TEXT OF SINN FÉIN DEPUTY LEADER MICHELLE O’NEILL’S REMARKS AT THE OFFICIAL UNVEILING OF MARTIN McGUINNESS PORTRAIT

22 March, 2018 - by Michelle O'Neill


FULL TEXT OF SINN FÉIN DEPUTY LEADER MICHELLE O’NEILL’S REMARKS AT THE OFFICIAL UNVEILING OF MARTIN McGUINNESS PORTRAIT

PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS

22 MARCH 2018 

“I’m honoured to say a few words on behalf of Martin’s family.

Can I start by saying to Bernie, Fiachra, Grainne, Emmet and Fionnuala, the grandchildren, brothers and sister that we are all very proud to be with you today as we unveil Martins portrait.

Thank you to everyone who has joined the family. People here from all walks of life, from the political, sporting, community, voluntary, churches, civic life and party colleagues.

I believe he would be very pleased that you have made the time to join his family on what is a day of mixed emotions for Martin’s family.

Because for anyone who knew Martin would know that he was a family man.

It is with a broken heart, but a heart that is bursting with pride, that we remember and celebrate his life a year on from his sudden passing.

He was our leader, but he was Bernie’s beloved husband, a father, grandad and brother.

We will never forget the sacrifices that his family have made through many long and difficult years.

Over this past year the McGuinness clan have symbolised Martin’s legacy as they attended the many events in his honour with great dignity and selflessness, while grieving their own personal loss.

I hope that his family 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.

Reflecting on the scores of thousands who attended the funeral showed a clear outpouring of love and solidarity and the very high esteem in which Martin was held as an active, respected and humble political leader who in his lifetime made a huge difference to people’s lives.

Martin was an ordinary man, a leader in the transformation, with others, of this society, as a result of the Irish peace process over the past 25 years.

As Sinn Féin chief negotiator Martin took on a huge challenge and responsibility to win the trust and support of the nationalist people and to successfully build a pathway to peace out of conflict and division.

But one of Martin’s great strength was his ability to recognise the need to understand that we live in a society of different views and narratives. 

He forged a reputation as a capable and outstanding political negotiator and a people first politician and Government Minister.  

We saw his strong political calibre when both he and Ian Paisley entered joint office to restore the power-sharing executive over a decade ago back in May 2007.

Over those ten years, in the role of deputy First Minister, Martin sought with all his energy and determination to serve all the people of the north and the island of Ireland by making the power-sharing government work.

Throughout that time, Martin worked with Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Arlene Foster as DUP First Ministers.  And it is great to see Peter and Arlene here today with representatives of the Paisley Family.

At all times Martin sought to exercise his responsibilities in good faith and to seek resolutions rather than recrimination.

He worked tirelessly and assertively to build our political process and to build our political institutions as the basis to advance the reconciliation of our community and to build a better future for our youth.

As a true leader he stretched and challenged his own supporters from within republicanism and nationalism in his determination to reach out with an open hand in friendship to our unionist neighbours – to unite Orange and Green.

Martin believed that the political institutions underpinning the Good Friday Agreement only have value if they enjoy the confidence and support of the people they were established to serve.

In his last public appeal, Martin urged people to choose hope over fear — to put equality and respect for all our people at the heart of the power-sharing institutions.

Therein lies the challenge for us all.

How do we create the conditions where all our people choose that hope over fear?

How do we achieve reconciliation together?

How do we build bridges between our communities together?

How do we govern on the basis of equal partnership together?

We all need to turn a corner together and enter a new era together.

And now Martin’s portrait will hang proudly in this building and watch over us, we seek to build that new and better future together.

So when people ask what is Martin McGuinness’ legacy, I tell them it is one of leadership.  It is one of integrity.  It is one of generosity.  And I tell them it is always one of choosing hope over fear.

We will all do well to be guided by that.”

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