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Bill Clinton attends Martin McGuinness funeral in Northern Ireland

Former US President Bill Clinton was one of the political leaders attending the funeral of former IRA commander and Sinn Fein minister Martin McGuinness. Clinton called for his work to be finished.

Thousands of people lined the streets as the funeral procession made its way through the nationalist Bogside district of Londonderry on Thursday.

The coffin was draped in the Irish tricolor flag and was brought from McGuinness' house, near the site of the 1972 "Bloody Sunday" shooting of Catholic protesters by British soldiers. It was carried out by Sinn Fein members including Gerry Adams, who later called the former Irish Republican Army (IRA) commander "a hero."

McGuinness was second in command of the IRA in 1979 when the group killed Earl Mountbatten, the Queen's second cousin, the Duke of Edinburgh's uncle and 18 British soldiers on the same day. On meeting the Queen in 2012, McGuiness asked if she was well. Her reply: "Well, I'm still alive."

As US president, Bill Clinton had played a central role in the 1998 Good Friday agreement which largely ended the violence in Northern Ireland.

"After all the breath he expended cursing the British, he worked with two prime ministers and shook hands with the Queen," Clinton said, addressing the 1,500 people inside Saint Columba's Church.

Nordirland 1987, Martin McGuinness (picture-alliance/empics)

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams with McGuinness in 1987

"He persevered and he prevailed, he risked the wrath of his comrades and rejection of his adversaries. If you really came here to celebrate his life and honor the contribution of the last chapter of it, you have to finish his work."

Irish President Michael D. Higgins and Prime Minister Enda Kenny also attended, along with former prime minister Bertie Ahern and ex-president Mary McAleese. Britain's Northern Ireland minister, James Brokenshire, was also present.

Significant moment

The 66-year-old was deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland from May 2007 until January when he withdrew his Sinn Fein party from the government, citing the "deep-seated arrogance" of unionist leader Arlene Foster. She had refused to temporarily move aside while an inquiry was held into an energy-subsidy program believed to have cost hundreds of millions of pounds from public funds.

His successor as leader of Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland, Michelle O'Neill, made a point of shaking Foster's hand at the funeral. Foster had been applauded as she arrived at the church. 

jm/kms (Reuters, AFP)

 

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