Thousands line the streets for funeral of Martin McGuinness

The coffin of Northern Ireland's former deputy first minister and ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness is carried down Westland Street into the Bogside ahead of his funeral at St Columba's Church Long Tower, in Londonderry
The coffin of Northern Ireland's former deputy first minister and ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness is carried down Westland Street into the Bogside ahead of his funeral at St Columba's Church Long Tower, in Londonderry

The funeral of Martin McGuinness has begun in Londonderry’s Bogside.

Thousands packed the city as the body of the former Stormont deputy first minister and ex-IRA commander was brought through the streets around his home for the final time.

Former US president Bill Clinton and ex-Democratic Unionist Stormont first ministers Peter Robinson and Arlene Foster were among those attending Thursday’s requiem mass in Derry for the Sinn Fein veteran.

Just before the mass got under way Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams introduced President Clinton to Mr McGuinness’s widow Bernie and children.

Mr McGuinness died on Tuesday from a rare heart condition aged 66.

Irish President Michael D Higgins and his predecessor, Mary McAleese, also attended the funeral, as did Taoiseach Enda Kenny and former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Gerry Adams carries the coffin during the funeral procession of Northern Ireland's former deputy first minister and ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness, ahead of his funeral at St Columba's Church Long Tower, in Londonderry

Gerry Adams carries the coffin during the funeral procession of Northern Ireland's former deputy first minister and ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness, ahead of his funeral at St Columba's Church Long Tower, in Londonderry

Mr McGuinness’s beloved Bogside neighbourhood came to a standstill as his remains - the coffin draped in the Irish Tricolour - were walked to St Columba’s Church, led by a lone piper.

Bishop Donal McKeown, Bishop of Derry, opened the service by welcoming dignitaries, public figures and politicians from Ireland, Britain and the US.

He then turned to the McGuinness family and said: “For you this is not the funeral of a public figure.

“This is a funeral of a husband, father and a grandfather and our first thoughts are inevitably with you.”

The funeral of Northern Ireland's former deputy first minister and ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness takes place at St Columba's Church Long Tower, in Londonderry

The funeral of Northern Ireland's former deputy first minister and ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness takes place at St Columba's Church Long Tower, in Londonderry

Bishop McKeown noted the applause inside St Columba’s when some politicians had arrived ahead of Mr McGuinness’s remains, including for Mrs Foster.

And he thanked those who had been involved in securing the Good Friday Agreement who travelled for the mass, including from within Northern Ireland and the Republic and Britain and the US.

“it’s a tribute to those who didn’t just talk the talk but walked the walk of implementing the Good Friday Agreement that all three of those strands are so well represented here,” he told mourners.

The roads around St Columba’s were thronged with thousands of people.

Inside chief celebrant Father Michael Canny began his homily by asking mourners to join him in sharing thoughts and prayers with the people of London following Wednesday’s terror attack.

He recalled the many tributes made to the Sinn Fein politician since his death and said it has been acknowledged that Mr McGuinness spent year after year moving the community towards peace.

“There are people in this church today whose presence would have been unthinkable only a generation ago,” Fr Canny told mourners.

The congregation heard that the presence of Mr McGuinness’s political rivals and opponents at the mass is “the most eloquent testimony” to his memory.

“When you seek his monument, look around you, you, by your presence are his monument,” Fr Canny said.

Mourners were told Mr McGuinness was the IRA commander who became a mainstay of the peace process.

Fr Canny revealed having many conversations with Mr McGuinness in which the Sinn Fein veteran said he knew only too well how many people struggled with his IRA past.

“Republicans were not blameless, and many people right across the community find it difficult to forgive and impossible to forget,” he said.

“By any standards, Martin McGuinness was a remarkable man and his life was a remarkable journey. The values he had, the principles he championed are still very much alive.

“On that journey many years ago, Martin realised that the time for peace had come and he pursued the peace process with relentless energy for the rest of his days, until illness finally struck him down.

“In the course of that journey he encountered many obstacles but he remained resolute. In conversation he often repeated that there was no other way, we had to continually work for the building of peace and a better future for all.

“Despite many setbacks he never became disheartened.”

During the slow procession to the church, family members shouldered the coffin, as did members of the Sinn Fein leadership, including Mr Adams and Michelle O’Neill.

Spontaneous applause broke out among the crowds.

Mr McGuinness’s wife, Bernie, carried the coffin as it made its way along part of the route the civil rights march took on Bloody Sunday in 1972.

Among others to pay tribute during the mass was Reverend Harold Good, former president of the Methodist Church in Ireland and a member of the panel which oversaw IRA decommissioning, and Rev David Latimer of the First Derry Presbyterian Church.

Rev Latimer described Mr McGuinness as a friend and recalled praying with him.

“Martin had a good heart but I would go a bit further to say, he had a big heart that enabled him to reach out in quite unexpected ways to both to friends and to foes alike,” he said.

“Martin has bequeathed to us a better place to live.

“It was his commitment to create a new order of co-operation where we will be able to live in relationship and not out of relationship and get to know each other better.

“In memory of the man whose friendship I will always treasure we must together, all of us, pledge to keep on doing what he was doing and to persevere in the pursuit of peace.

Rev Latimer added a message of thanks in Irish: “Go raibh mile maith agat, Martin.”