Maurice Hayes reckons Michael D Higgins is the right man to start a more inclusive (and less prescriptive) debate on the nature of a post troubles Irish identity:
It was different in the South, where these events became remote, seen through the soft focus of ‘The Wind that Shakes the Barley’ or the weekly ambush in the ‘Sunday Press’, filtering out all brutality but that of the Brits, sanitising violence by distance and a rousing ballad.
Then McGuinness brings it all into question with the awareness of his involvement and the reality behind it.
There is a current rewriting of history, too, which needs to be challenged. Armed conflict in the North was not inevitable.
John Hume and Dana (and thousands more) experienced the same discrimination and disabilities as McGuinness and his colleagues without feeling the need to resort to the bomb and the bullet.
While Adams and McGuinness are rightly commended for their efforts to end the conflict, the IRA bears a heavy responsibility for prolonging it. The difference between the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) and Sunningdale is not worth a single life, much less the two and a half thousand who died violently in the interim.
The campaign disclosed an attitude in the South, in contradiction of the GFA, that the nation was a 26-county entity, with the worldwide diaspora being embraced in the Irish identity more easily than Northern nationalists who are in danger of being edited out of the national narrative, and that murdered policemen in the North somehow matter less than their murdered counterparts in the South.
Plenty of transformation there for the new President and of inclusiveness — and no better man to handle it.