Lives lost and peace won: Martin McGuinness, a politician who defined modern Ulster

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IT LASTED just a few seconds seconds, but it was a moment of historic significance when Martin McGuinness and the Queen first shook hands.

Such a gesture between the former IRA commander and Her Majesty would once have been unimaginable.

Martin McGuinness at a Co-operation Ireland reception, with a portrait of the Queen by artist Colin Davidson.

Martin McGuinness at a Co-operation Ireland reception, with a portrait of the Queen by artist Colin Davidson.

However, at a charity event in Belfast on a Wednesday morning in June 2012 the hand of friendship was extended.

“I feel so privileged to have witnessed that significant and historic moment,” said former PA photographer Paul Faith.

Mr Faith was the only photographer allowed access to photograph the handshake.

Death of ‘remarkable’ Ulster politician Martin McGuinness, 66

Northern Ireland's former deputy first minister and ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness, who has died aged 66.

Northern Ireland's former deputy first minister and ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness, who has died aged 66.

“I remember that Martin appeared very relaxed and confident and happy to stand beside the Queen.

“The significance of it for me didn’t really sink in until the next day when I saw the pictures in the papers.

“Every front page was carrying the photograph and it hit me that this was going to be a historic image,” said Mr Faith.

He added: “The day after the handshake I was sitting in the press room at the Irish Open and Martin McGuinness came in with Peter Robinson.

Martin McGuinness, leading Sinn Fein negotiator in the peace process, attending a news conference in the House of Commons, London, with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to his right.

Martin McGuinness, leading Sinn Fein negotiator in the peace process, attending a news conference in the House of Commons, London, with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to his right.

“He came over to me and shook my hand and said ‘you’ve made me famous again’. He then asked for a photograph of him and I shaking hands.

“I also took the photograph of him and Ian Paisley that led to them being called the Chuckle Brothers.

“He later signed that photograph for me and said ‘so Paul, you’re the one who turned me into a Chuckle Brother. Well done’.”

The day after shaking hands with the Queen, Mr McGuinness spoke about its “momentous and historical” significance.

Martin McGuinness

Martin McGuinness

He said that the meeting had the potential to define “a new relationship between Britain and Ireland and between the Irish people themselves”.

In a speech in Westminster he said the handshake “was in a very pointed, deliberate and symbolic way offering the hand of friendship to unionists through the person of Queen Elizabeth for which many unionists have a deep affinity”.

“It is an offer I hope many will accept in the same spirit it was offered,” he said.

Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton described the handshake as “the most remarkable sign of change yet” in the Northern Ireland peace process.

A few years later Mr McGuinness paid tribute to the Queen for meeting him.

“I liked her courage in agreeing to meet with me, I liked the engagements that I’ve had with her. There’s nothing I have seen in my engagements with her that this is someone I should dislike - I like her,” he told a BBC documentary.

First Minister Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness smiling after being sworn in as ministers of the Northern Ireland Assembley

First Minister Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness smiling after being sworn in as ministers of the Northern Ireland Assembley

Among the tributes to Mr McGuinness were more critical comments from victims who said they have been denied justice.

In the wake of the former IRA leader’s death the sister of a woman killed by the paramilitary group tweeted a list of atrocities and other victims.

Ann Travers’ sister Mary was gunned down and her judge father, Tom Travers, badly injured when they were ambushed by an IRA gang as they emerged from church in Belfast in April 1984.

Ann Travers has since campaigned for victims’ rights.

She tweeted a picture of her sister and father, and wrote: “Enniskillen Families, Claudy families, Hegarty family, Gillespie family, Maher family, I’m so sorry you never got the answers you deserved.”

Mr McGuinness spoke out six years ago after a Sinn Fein member involved in the murder of Mary Travers was appointed to an influential adviser role at Stormont.

He said the killing had been “absolutely wrong” but added the adviser, Mary McArdle, would not be sacked from the role.

Speaking at the time he said: “There is controversy now because Ann obviously feels very hurt and I respect the fact that she feels the way she feels but if we were to apply the rule that people who were part of the conflict can’t be part of building a better future then Nelson Mandela would never have been president of South Africa.”

Northern Ireland's former deputy first minister and ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness, who has died aged 66.

Northern Ireland's former deputy first minister and ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness, who has died aged 66.