Phil Funchion pays tribute and recalls the local Sinn Fein cumann attending the funeral of Martin McGuinness in Derry.
The death of Martin McGuinness on March 21 will forever etch that date in the minds and hearts of not only Irish Republicans but peoples of all lands seeking a fair, equal and just society. His life, his contribution to peace, his manner and his character will always be celebrated and commemorated in the years ahead.
This year, however, the date resounds with feelings of sadness, loneliness and loss as the impact of his departure from us begins to become a reality for all of us. Of course, this impact will be felt most deeply by his wife Bernie, his sons Fiachra and Emmet as well as his daughters, Fionnuala and Grainne along with all his other family members.
The sight of the coffin draped with our national flag being carried from his home in the Bogside to St.Columba's Church which overlooks that home,the sound of the piper leading the way and the spontaneous clapping of the people who loved and respected him and who were there in such massive numbers that they filled not only the Church but overflowed onto the streets to as far as one could see will forever stay in the memories of those who were fortunate enough to be able to be there on that memorable day.
These were Martin's people, the people he gave his life for, the people he fought for so as to ensure that they would be treated as equals and not discriminated against and treated as second and third class citizens as they had been for generations.
They had been forgotten by so many of their own countrymen and women but they knew that they had never been forgotten or abandoned by Martin McGuinness and the political principles he stood for and practiced all his life.
There was a large contingent of Sinn Fein members from the Constituency in addition to Kathleen Funchion, T.D. and local Councillors David Kennedy,Sean Tyrrell and Andy Gladney. All listened by way of speakers set up outside the Church as the very appropriate Scriptural reading from St. Paul to Timothy told that he had fought the good fight, that he had finished the race and that he had remained faithful. A very appropriate reading for the life of Martin McGuinness.
It was interesting to listen to former U.S. President, Bill Clinton, address the assembled congregation of people and tell them of Martin's valuable contribution to the peace process and all he did by way of sacrifice from himself and his family to bring that about for the people of all Ireland. Tributes were paid to Martin McGuinness and his family by clergy of many faiths and the fact that so many people of so many different political and religious persuasions were gathered together in Martin's Church of St. Columba's told its own story.
When the Mass was over Martin was carried to his final resting place in the City Cemetery. A guard of Honour made up of Sinn Fein Councillors from the 32 Counties led the procession. When this was over David Kennedy took off his armband, looked at it with pride and remarked that "someday I hope I will be able to show that to my grandchildren and tell them about this day".
On the journey to his final resting place this son of Derry as Gerry Adams described him was carried by family and friend by his home and up the hills where the mourners listened to words from Mary Lou McDonald, Michelle O'Neill and finally an eulogy from Gerry Adams before Christy Moore concluded the ceremony.
The day was long in time and long in memories and all who were there felt stronger for having experienced and been a part of such an historical day. Martin McGuinness may you rest in the peace of heaven and thank you for all you have done for us.