Northern Ireland is better off because of Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister and the Irish Republic would be better off with him as president says influential Gurdian columnist Ronan Bennett.
The columnist stated that McGuinness “put the gun down and he persuaded the British government to address the issues that sparked the conflict. The North is a better place because of him. The republic can be too.”
The Guardian columnist’s take is remarkably different to many in the Irish media who have attacked McGuinness because of his IRA past.
Bennett however, takes a different approach.
“What galls McGuinness's detractors is that Sinn Féin has been so staggeringly successful. Forty years ago it barely existed in anything other than name. Thirty years ago, it was confined to republican heartlands in Belfast and Derry. Twenty years ago its leaders were still subject to censorship in Ireland and Britain, and its members and elected councillors were ostracised and – with suspected state collusion – on occasion assassinated. Now its candidate for president has a real chance of winning.”
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Bennett stated that McGuinness would be known as a conciliator if elected.
“As president, McGuinness knows he would be the representative of all the republic's interests, even those to which he may be adverse. But he long ago absorbed the need for political inclusiveness. Even at the height of the Troubles he said he would talk to anyone at any time without preconditions in order to find a way to bring the conflict to a close. When negotiators eventually agreed to meet, they found him affable, straight-talking and easy to get along with. They were impressed. Against all expectation, they even liked him.”
Bennet says that “ His appeal is to those who never experienced the economic benefits of the Celtic Tiger but who are now paying for its collapse: the people, as he puts it, who were not invited to the party. Traditionally ignored by the main parties, they now look to one of their own.”
Bennett notes that the call to arms in Derry in 1969 was like the Arab spring just passed.
“What happened in McGuinness's home town of Derry in the summer of 1969 was an Irish spring, a spontaneous rebellion against a regime that discriminated and excluded from power a majority of its own citizens. Many reached for the gun in those strange, paranoid, idealistic and angry days. Martin McGuinness was one of them.”
Now says Bennett he would be a huge benefit to Ireland if he was elected president.
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