A high-profile IRA victims’ campaigner has said Martin McGuinness was a “funny kind of Christian”, after a Catholic church in the heart of Washington DC offered a homily in tribute to him.
Ann Travers voiced disappointment in relation to the memorial Mass for the former IRA man-turned-politician on Tuesday, attended by Gerry Adams among others.
A statement from a member of St Peter’s church in Capitol Hill – where the United States Congress is based – said its priest’s homily had spoken of his “unique life and work in the context of his identity as a Christian”.
Ms Travers – whose sister was murdered by the IRA as she and her parents left mMass in south Belfast in 1984 – suggested that those behind such sentiments had swallowed “fairytales” from Sinn Fein.
The practising Catholic told the News Letter: “Well, he’s a funny kind of Christian.
“I was brought up to believe the 10 Commandments, [including] ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’.
“The IRA murdered my own beautiful sister Mary as she walked home from Mass, and attempted to murder my parents.
“It’s just a shame Martin McGuinness didn’t show a bit more Christianity within his life, and give answers to victims – and indeed not be involved in taking any one person’s life, or supporting the taking of any one person’s life.
“When my family were walking home, they had the Lord in their hearts.
“They’d just received Holy Communion; they were happy, and blessed, and in a delightful state.
“And then evil IRA men came.”
She added that “not once” in the more than three decades since has any senior Sinn Fein member “condemned the actions of the IRA that day”.
She added Mr McGuinness, having arrived at St Peter’s Gates after death, is likely “still standing outside waiting to get in” – because, whilst alive, he could not acknowledge that all murder was wrong.
She said the US church’s actions indicate “a naivete, a lack of understanding of what really went on in Northern Ireland, that they’ve listened to fairy stories – really I’d much prefer the Catholic church, from the US or wherever, came and spoke with victims”.
Seamus McKendry, son-in-law of IRA abductee and murder victim Jean McConville, said if American supporters of Mr McGuinness wanted to pay tribute to him, then “why not? It doesn’t bother me personally”.
He met Mr McGuinness once, and said he found him “affable” – as opposed to Gerry Adams, whom he found “laughable”.
Mr McConville’s brother-in-law Billy McConville, who was put into care soon after Jean was ‘disappeared’, is to be buried on Wednesday following his death aged 50. He said he had been abused in care.
Mr McGuinness died over four months ago, aged 66.
Sinn Fein said Mr McGuinness’ two sons, Fiachra and Emmett, were among those at Tuesday’s church service.
Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire – who was also in Washington – was not present. He had attended Mr McGuinness’ funeral in March.
Afterwards on Tuesday, Mr Adams briefed the Congressional Friends of Ireland group and State Department about the Stormont impasse.
The Washington service on Tuesday was attended by an estimated 75 people on Tuesday.
‘Be Thou My Vision’ was among the pieces of music sung, and there were readings from Isaiah, the Gospel of John, and the Book of Revelation.
A senior member of St Peter’s, writing via e-mail, said of the service: “For our part as a parish church, we tend to the praying for Martin’s soul and the consolation of his loved ones. One reason masses for the dead are so beautiful is because they reiterate rites for every Christian just the same, from the least to the greatest...
“The Mass when I die will be essentially the same as Saint Augustine in the 5th century, King Charlemagne in the 9th century, and John Kennedy in the 20th century.
“There’s great comfort and beauty in our uniform procession to the God we believe in.
“But, our parish being here on Capitol Hill, we know well that it’s the particularizing of individuals that get reported on, not this commonality of all God’s saints.
“Still, I’d add that Fr [Jordan] Kelly’s homily today... did an exquisite job of particularising Martin’s unique life and work in the context of his identity as a Christian.”