IVU: Victims ‘deeply hurt’ by Rev David Latimer’s latest praise for Martin McGuinness

A leading victims’ coalition has challenged Presbyterian Moderator David Bruce to confirm whether praise from a Londonderry cleric for the late Martin McGuinness represents church policy.
A packed church at Rev David Latimer’s retirement service in January. He said he welcomed  IVU’s ‘healthy’ criticism of his stanceA packed church at Rev David Latimer’s retirement service in January. He said he welcomed  IVU’s ‘healthy’ criticism of his stance
A packed church at Rev David Latimer’s retirement service in January. He said he welcomed IVU’s ‘healthy’ criticism of his stance

On Saturday Sinn Fein broadcast a lengthy video tribute from its Facebook site to mark what would have been the 70th birthday of former deputy first minister Mr McGuinness, who died in 2017.

One of those who paid tribute was Rev David Latimer, recently retired minister of First Londonderry Presbyterian Church.

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In 2006 he went on BBC Radio Foyle to appeal to Mr McGuinness, a former IRA chief of staff who later shook hands with the Queen, to intervene to stop paint attacks on his church. The appeal led to a very public friendship.

In his latest three-minute clip, the cleric said of Mr McGuinness that the former Stormont minister “was about building bridges” and added that he was: “A true great leader of modern time and a genuine friend.”

But Kenny Donaldson, of Innocent Victims United (IVU), said many Presbyterian members of his group had been deeply hurt by the remarks.

“Over the course of Tuesday we have taken calls from dozens of members, many of whom belong to the Presbyterian Church, who have been absolutely aghast and hurt by the comments made by Rev Latimer concerning the late Martin McGuinness,” he said.

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“The Presbyterian Church needs to speak up on this issue and make clear where it stands.”

He challenged the church to say if it had any concerns about Rev Latimer lauding Mr McGuinness for his “peace and reconciliation journey” which he said the MLA engaged in “whilst being party to the airbrushing of previous and unaccounted for [IRA] actions”.

And in a direct challenge to Rev Latimer, he said: “There is need for account of the past to be made in order for reconciliation and healing to be possible”.

A spokesman for the church responded: “Dr Latimer is one of many retired ministers in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and his views on these issues are well known and are his own.”

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Rev Latimer responded that Mr McGuinness had been “like Saint Paul, [who] wanted the splendid torch he was given to hold for a moment to burn brightly before turning it over to the next generation”.

He added that things cannot continue to be done as in the past if a new future is to be secured.

The criticism from IVU was “healthy” he said, adding that he would welcome an opportunity to meet the group and work with it.

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Alistair Bushe