The sad death has been announced this morning of former Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness. The SKWAWKBOX offers its condolences to his family and friends and considers that Northern Ireland has lost a great figure.
Tributes have been made by a range of political figures and rightly so. Mr McGuinness was a man who once said that there was no future for the hopes of Irish Republicans without armed struggle but that if anyone could find a way to achieve them without violence he woulld embrace them – and he was true to his word.
One tribute in particular bears mention, though. It comes from former spin-doctor to Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell:
This blog echoes those sentiments and the peace agreement in Northern Ireland was undoubtedly a high point of the Blair government, so Mr Campbell is well placed to comment.
However, his comment should also lay to rest one of the most pernicious tactics used by his Blairite co-religionists against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – the ‘friend of terrorists‘ smear.
Martin McGuinness was, for a time, known as the ‘Butcher of Bogside’ and not because he had trained as a butcher’s assistant in his youth. I heard a BBC journalist on the radio this morning, who paid fulsome tribute to Mr McGuinness but also spoke of how terrified he once was, in the early days, when he realised McGuinness and another man were following him down a street.
As Alastair Campbell correctly pointed out, Martin McGuinness was an absolutely central figure in the peace process. Without his willingness to engage – and without the willingness of politicians to engage with him and others like him – there would have been no end to the conflict in Northern Ireland.
The hypocrisy of those who attack Corbyn for his willingness to meet and talk with people that some term terrorists is boundless – and to be clear, to my knowledge this is not something Alastair Campbell has done, in spite of his entrenched opposition to Corbyn’s leadership – and should never have happened. It is to be hoped that it will now cease.
But for now, the focus should be on the passing of a great man who showed that yesterday’s terrorist can become today’s Deputy First Minister – that change is possible and that talking to anyone is a small price to pay for it.
Martin McGuinness, RIP.
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