Worth listening to Peter Robinson’s thoughts on working with Martin McGuinness:
While the media obsessed over any difficulty or disagreement that from time to time would arise because of our distinct political mandates we would have been sitting down seeking to find a solution or working out how we would manage the differences.
There never were any tantrums. Yelling and screaming were not part of Martin’s temperament. Even after my retirement and through his illness we met, spoke by phone and exchanged texts.
Given my seven and a half years working closely alongside Martin in OFMDFM I probably have had a better insight into his thinking than any other unionist politician.
I am absolutely certain he had reached a place in his life where he wanted to ensure there would be no reversion to the days of violence and I am equally persuaded that he was genuinely seeking reconciliation and progress in our community.
In my view no other republican could have performed the role he did during this transition. In the period of reflection that retirement provides I have often considered whether there was an alternative route to the one we took.
I know there are some who will never come to terms with power-sharing with Sinn Fein and Martin’s elevation to Ministerial office.
My entry to politics was occasioned by the murder of my friend in an IRA bomb attack, so I will never dismiss these sentiments nor play down the pain that has been felt by so many.
I am also sufficiently open to be able to recognise that for republicans and nationalists working with convinced, unalterable – even trenchant – unionists is, for them, hardly a cheerful choice.
Yet the real decision for all of us was whether we wanted hostilities to continue or to end. Even an unconditional end to violence, welcome though that would have been, would not have resolved our community’s historic divisions – only a shared stake in the future and working with a collective purpose toward a common goal can do that.
In the challenging period we have entered we all need our politicians to recommit to the principle of creating that shared society and working to fulfil the vision of a new and better era for all our people.
Martin’s authority and influence in reaching agreement and in selling it to the republican faithful will be greatly missed.