The late Sir John Junor had a catchpraise which he used regularly in his newspaper columns after some event or other that was especially unpleasant : “Pass the sickbag, Alice”.
I am sure I was not the only person to watch last week’s The View or listen to Friday morning’s Good Morning Ulster to feel in need of Alice’s device.
Commentator after commentator spoke of Martin McGuinness in terms of praise that some might consider excessive if applied to St Francis of Assisi.
We were told again and again of his contribution to peace and reconciliation and of how (as Denis Bradley assured us) he had saved lives.
Mr McGuinness’s links with the IRA murder gang – so well recounted in the biography by Kathy Johnston and the late Liam Clarke – went unmentioned or were passed over as quickly as possible.
Another journalist told us that Martin McGuinness had to become involved with the IRA first so that he could become a man of peace.
Especially effusive in his praise was Ian Paisley junior, the son of Martin McGuinness’s late partner in the unfunniest comedy double act since Mike and Bernie Winters.
Mr Paisley spoke of how his father’s old friend had “saved lives” (that line again) and “made countless lives better”.
Of course Ian Paisley’s nostalgia for the Paisley-McGuinness partnership should surprise no one.
The late Lord Bannside and Martin McGuinness together wrecked Northern Ireland in the sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties, each in his own way.
The latter built a career on rancour, riot and sectarian venom. The former’s success and reputation rest on his time in the IRA.
Pretending that Martin McGuinness’s period as Deputy First Minister excuses him from culpability for the Troubles is not unlike concentrating on the late Augusto Pinochet’s role in restoring the Chilean economy while ignoring the murders committed by his secret police or praising the late Dr Harold Shipman for the patients he cured while forgetting about those he murdered.
Let no one repeat the bogus argument that McGuinness “had” to join the IRA.
He had a choice between good and evil at the outbreak of the Troubles and he did not choose good.
In a recent interview Archbishop Eamon Martin, like McGuinness a native of Londonderry, said that his parents were successful in ensuring that he and his ten siblings never had anything to do with the IRA.
Much may be said that is negative about another Londonderry man, John Hume.
Nevertheless, there is a great difference between him and McGuinness. John Hume spent years trying to secure jobs for his city while McGuinness spent decades trying to destroy it.
There is nothing positive to be said about the former deputy first minister.
He spent over two decades involved in violence; the last twenty years have been spent fooling the gullible about what went before.
It is a pity that so many commentators invert morality by praising gun men while mocking or ignoring those he knew that wrong was to be avoided.
C.D.C. Armstrong, Belfast, BT12