Those left hurt or bereaved by the Troubles have emerged from the last several days of “terrorism idolatry” with a sense of determination, according to one of their leading spokesmen.
Kenny Donaldson, of the umbrella group Innocent Victims United (IVU), was speaking about the “traumatic” effect which the coverage of Martin McGuinness’s death has had upon some survivors of violence and relatives of victims.
Mr McGuinness’s death at age 66, which occured in hospital while he was surrounded by family, was announced by his party on Tuesday morning.
It has been followed by an outpouring of tributes to the former senior IRA figure, and a colossal funeral attended by some leading lights of unionism, including Arlene Foster.
Mr McGuinness’s widow issued a statement thanking all those who had attended vigils for the former deputy first minister since his death last Tuesday, adding that it had brought her “great comfort”.
Mr Donaldson (whose body IVU represents a string of individual groups, which have previously been said to have a combined membership well in excess of 10,000 people), said: “The last week has proven extremely challenging and also traumatic for many innocent victims and survivors of terrorism, these individuals have witnessed with disbelief the manner in which Martin McGuinness’s passing and funeral have been represented.
“There have been many who have engaged in terrorism idolatry, others in political revisionism, others in misrepresenting the scriptures and others still who felt it popular to be part of the events which weren’t so far removed from being a state funeral.”
On Thursday, another group which Mr Donaldson was involved in – the South East Fermanagh Foundation – had staged its own service, specifically geared towards those who had been hurt by paramilitary violence.
Among those who had taken the service in Lisnaskea was Alan Irwin, a Church of Ireland minister who lost both his uncle and later his father to IRA gunmen.
He suggested to the News Letter at the time that many victims may look upon the pomp of Mr McGuinness’s funeral with something akin to “disgust”.
Mr Donaldson added relationships between some victims and survivors had “become strained” in recent days because of their different responses to the aftermath of Mr McGuinness’s death.
He added: “Now that the funeral has passed innocent victims and survivors of terrorism must somehow try to once again lift themselves up, to show the resilience which has kept them functioning for many years.
“I pray relationships strained in recent days can be repaired and restored.
“And for this to happen many victims and survivors will have to somehow navigate their feelings, circumvent hurts experienced and demonstrate humility.
“In recent days victims and survivors, whether Protestant, Roman Catholic or dissenter, have broadly demonstrated a unity of purpose and resolve – that must be the legacy of the last week.
“Standing together against the political rewrite programme of those intent on absolving terrorism’s sins is a battle that is only beginning.”
He concluded that “holding up the truth is the only way to defeat terrorism”.
As reported by the News Letter, the chief constable of the PSNI (whose antecedent force the RUC lost most than 270 members or reservists to IRA violence) had issued a tribute to Mr McGuinness within hours of his death, whilst among those attending Mr McGuinness’S funeral in his native city of Londonderry was the current Victims’ Commissioner Judith Thompson.
On Sunday, a statement was issued via Sinn Fein on behalf of Bernie McGuinness, Mr McGuinness’s widow, thanking those who had offered her their sympathies.
“From Martin’s return home on Tuesday, and until we left for the funeral service on Thursday, long queues of people visited our home,” the statement read.
“The family took great comfort from their presence ... I want to especially acknowledge the many thousands who attended the funeral.
“Words cannot express our appreciation at the outpouring of love and solidarity, which embraced us throughout Thursday.”
She concluded: “Our hearts are broken.”