A hint of optimism in the aftermath of McGuinness funeral

Morning View
Morning View

The funeral of Martin McGuinness has been held and Northern Ireland moves into a new chapter.

Unionists and the British government have paid their respects to the late Sinn Fein deputy first minister, as nationalists insisted they should.

It was yet another act of forgiveness and generosity, in recognition of Mr McGuinness’s latter years, even though there are powerful arguments that they should have snubbed the funeral of a man who presided over the murder of so many people and of so much destruction, without a word of regret – and thus all the attendant risks that young people will one day follow in his path.

This risk is all the greater at a time when Islamic fanatics want to attack cities such as London (following in the footsteps of an IRA that bombed London until UK governments were suing for peace).

But the goodwill of unionist attendance yesterday was recognised. It was not an IRA funeral, even though IRA leaders were of course present.

It is just possible that the occasion has cleared the air in a favourable way.

Now both unionists and London find themselves at the mercy of Gerry Adams. It is a depressing prospect. He shows little indication of wanting to make Northern Ireland work, as Mr McGuinness, for his many faults, did.

But tempting though it will be for London to capitulate to the Sinn Fein president, it must bear in mind the pragmatic problems with doing so, even if it is no longer concerned by the moral ones. Buckling to him will merely lead to new demands in a year or two and a fresh crisis.

But perhaps he will not be as confrontational as his words on Wednesday suggested. There was a mood in the air yesterday among politicians on all sides present in Londonderry that a deal was possible.

If that can be done without capitulation to a rampant Sinn Fein, it will be a hopeful development in these perilous times locally, nationally and internationally.