Three stages of Martin McGuinness’s life

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Three stages of Martin McGuinness’s life thumbnailMartin McGuinness

MUCH political mileage has been made by unionist politicians in accusing republicans of a 'rewriting of history'.

Its use to justify an uncompromising stance on legacy issues, is only one example, there have been more. However, a good example of the rewriting of history was perhaps best demonstrated with the untimely death of former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and the whole conflab as to how he should be remembered

Days of airtime and yards of column inches were devoted to the subject, a man of violence, a man of peace or both.

People will undoubtedly have their own opinions but one thing that ran throughout this coverage was an attempt to rewrite history.

Martin McGuinness was born in 1950 yet if you were to use the coverage of his death as a base line you'd be forgiven in thinking that his life only began in the 70's when he joined the IRA.

The previous 20 years of his life, which include the most informative years of anyone's life, seem to have either not happened or had been of no significance in moulding the man that went on to earn the respect and friendship of a vast number of people with such a diversity of political opinions.

This stage in his life was at best glossed over even though it is the most opinion and character building stage in a person's life. He was born into a time when the state was systematically discriminating against a very substantial minority consigned intoits charge.

A system where his educational and employment opportunities were very limited. Where his basic civil rights were denied and where the very demand for those rights was viewed as sedition and put down with brutal state force that in itself spawned a violent response.

On the few occasions when this was mentioned, commentators have interjected with the remark that not every Nationalist or Catholic took up the gun. This is of course true, but that can be said of any society or even community. Why did every Unionist or Protestant not join the UDR, RUC, British Army or Loyalist Paramilitaries?

That's the way society works. Communities are made up of a spectrum of political opinions and a varying emphasis on the intensity or the strength of those beliefs.

I would contend that Martin McGuinness's life can be viewed in three stages.

1.The first stage saw him born into a false peace where like others, his rights and aspirations were subdued by state oppression, manipulation and force of numbers.

A situation that was exasperated by the turning of a blind eye to these excesses by those who should have been ensuring safeguards. It would be fair to say that this false peace shaped the committed 'man of violence', 'terrorist' 'freedom fighter', whatever terminology is comfortable for people.

If Martin McGuinness showed anything it was that he would not get hung up on people's terminologies. The fact of the matter is that this stage in life must surely have begun to mould the man and it can be argued that this rewriting of history is deliberate for political reasons as well as attempting to paint a false picture.

2.The second stage saw a very violent campaign that was waged for over twenty-five years. This was fought on many fronts and involved a plethora of combatants under the simplistic labels of Republicans and State Forces.

Again the rewriting of history weighs in here with the coverage that focussed almost exclusively on republican violence.

Outstanding issues relating to what appeared to be every IRA operation was being laid at Martin McGuinness's door.

It was almost being portrayed that the IRA operated in a vacuum posing the questions as 'Why did they do this?' 'There was no need for it'. We would have got to this point in history without the violence was another way it was put.

When one considers the state response to the demand for basic civil rights this claim seems very unlikely. Hardly a report was aired without an indignant commentator or two queuing up to be offended while conveniently airbrushing everything else out of history.

I would be fair to say that this stage helped to mould the 'man of peace', the politician', 'the statesman.'

Accepting that there was suffering on all sides and that there is no hierarchy of victims was clearly a strong motivation for Martin McGuiness to seek another way to resolve our problems.

As much was acknowledged by most that were not intent on rewriting history. So too was the commitment showed by Martin McGuinness to establishing and promoting the peace process.

3.The third stage is basically the Peace Process whereby Martin McGuiness went out of his way to reach out to opponents.

His meetings with the Queen being some of the most publicised. There was a noticeable lack of reciprocation on the part of Unionists to these moves.

His commitment to this is recognised by all The exception here being the blinkered bigots who not only want to rewrite history but profess that the repeating of its mistakes will be a step forward. This is thinly disguised as an argument for a return to majority rule.

It was during this stage that we saw the development of Martin McGuiness as a statesman, a renowned negotiator and peace maker. The later part of Martin McGuinness's life was very much in the public eye and still fresh in peoples' minds, making it somewhat more difficult for those to rewrite.

There is another aspect of the recent coverage that also needs addressed and that is a portrayal by some of a 'Road to Damascus conversion' by Martin McGuinness.

This would imply an acceptance of a moral wrong doing on the part of Martin McGuiness and Republicans in general, which of course would be a prelude to calls of humble apologies and an acceptance of this rewriting of history.

There was no bolt of lightning nor was Martin McGuiness an insect. He did not go into a cocoon and metamorphosed into something new.

He was the same person who was born in the Bogside in 1950 as who was buried in the Bogside in 2017.

All the events in between combined to shape the man and cannot be cherry picked and just as importantly rewritten.


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