Eulogising of McGuinness has re-traumatised victims, says man whose brother was murdered by the IRA

Ken Funston (whose brother was murdered by the IRA) during  a Memorial Day to the victims of terrorist attacks in the Senate Chamber in Parliament Buildings, Stormont on March 13 2017.  Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Ken Funston (whose brother was murdered by the IRA) during a Memorial Day to the victims of terrorist attacks in the Senate Chamber in Parliament Buildings, Stormont on March 13 2017. Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

My brother Ronnie was murdered on the Fermanagh border on March 13 1984, targeted by local people and the act carried out by the IRA.

Why, oh why, did they do this?

Martin McGuinness (left) follows the coffin of IRA man Charles English in Londonderry 1984. Picture Pacemaker

Martin McGuinness (left) follows the coffin of IRA man Charles English in Londonderry 1984. Picture Pacemaker

Was it a purely sectarian hate crime or was it something more sinister, an attempted ‘land grab’, a strategic ploy to ethnically cleanse the area of the minority Unionist population?

No thought was given as to the impact that would have on my family and that impact still resonates to this day, as it does in thousands of households around Northern Ireland.

Unfortunately, the death, and eulogising of Martin McGuinness (MM) has re-traumatised many, many victims and survivors of the Troubles.

Former Presbyterian Moderator, Rev Ken Newell, recently stated that our salvation lies in three words “side by side”. Fond words Mr Newell but what we need from the churches is leadership and pastoral care for the thousands that grieve every day. Pandering to those who caused this harm does not nothing to alleviate it.

The Reverend David Latimer with Martin McGuinness at Sinn Fein's Ard Fheis  at Belfast's Waterfront Conference Centre in 2011

The Reverend David Latimer with Martin McGuinness at Sinn Fein's Ard Fheis at Belfast's Waterfront Conference Centre in 2011

I found it particularly sad to see the Rev David Latimer extolling the virtues of his ‘good friend’ MM, the good friend who managed to decimate his own congregation and fill graves in the churchyard. He eulogised, “Today we thank God for Martin McGuinness and at some point in the future I’m looking forward...to praising God with him in Heaven”

The facts of the matter are that murder is wrong in any religion or society, it was wrong in 1970 as much as it is in 2017. MM was not prepared to show any level of contrition yet society has stood in line to forgive him.

In that queue was the chief constable, our senior police officer, a position that comes with a high level of responsibility to administer the rule of law.

Mr Hamilton had 303 colleagues murdered by terrorists of all shades in Northern Ireland up to 1998, yet he saw fit to make a personal statement and attend MM’s funeral.

Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory arriving for the funeral of Martin McGuinness, at St Columba's Church Long Tower, in Londonderry. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory arriving for the funeral of Martin McGuinness, at St Columba's Church Long Tower, in Londonderry. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

He did not have to do so, but he apparently felt obliged to attend the funeral of an unrepentant terrorist, as did the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Barra McGrory.

What message does that send out to us? It really does make one despondent.

In a bizarre and somewhat matrix scenario, because I could not forgive MM, I felt guilty. I’ve had this conversation with several other people who felt the same way. Even in death MM managed to invert the guilt on us for not joining this queue to pay homage to his life of heinous crime. That has left me in somewhat despair, am I getting this badly wrong, am I part of the problem, why could I not see this like them?

Lucidity for me quickly shone through, much of this was ‘Hollywood’, showy, hollow drama but without understanding the hurt being played out on our TV screens.

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton (centre) arriving for the funeral of Martin McGuinness, at St Columba's Church Long Tower, in Londonderry. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton (centre) arriving for the funeral of Martin McGuinness, at St Columba's Church Long Tower, in Londonderry. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

It was the ‘Emperor isn’t wearing clothes’ analogy, no-one was prepared to point out the obvious, this man was no freedom fighter like Gerry Adams would extol. He murdered his neighbours, his friends who crossed him, his enemies and anyone else in the line of expediency. He had not reformed, his guilty knowledge was taken to the grave, and he still clutches his beloved ‘green book’.

Gerry Adams, in his graveside oration, stated that “MM was no terrorist, he was a freedom fighter”. Who was MM acting as freedom fighter for, purely on behalf of his own band of followers to the detriment of the larger population?

Who was he freeing, the perceived injustices of the sixties had been rectified by the early seventies, yet they continued to kill for another 25 years, empowering their loyalist cohorts to do likewise?

Even in death the legacy of the life of MM will live on, and for many, not with any degree of fondness.

We so wish we could leave the past behind us, it is not that easy, and this last week has simply made it much more difficult.

• Ken Funston is Advocacy Service Manager at South East Fermanagh Foundation

The Very Reverend Ken Newell at the funeral for the Redemptorist priest Father Gerry Reynolds in 2015

The Very Reverend Ken Newell at the funeral for the Redemptorist priest Father Gerry Reynolds in 2015