- 31 Mar 17
Amidst the widespread coverage of Martin McGuinness’s funeral, its ideological significance was overlooked by virtually all commentators.
Much has been made of the applause which greeted Arlene Foster as she took her place at Martin McGuinness’s funeral in the Long Tower Church in Derry last Thursday. The ovation was widely taken as a harbinger of hope that the Stormont talks set to resume the following day would be conducted in a more consensual and conducive atmosphere, that agreement on the most difficult issues, including the long-elusive deal on “legacy” – getting to the truth of Troubles atrocities – might now be on the cards.
This was wishful thinking. The likelihood of agreement depended, as ever, on who was willing to give way on what. The atmosphere at the Long Tower may have been hugely heartening in general terms but won’t have been a material consideration in the minds of the negotiation teams. Less attention has been paid to a more significant departure from normal practice – the fact that the coffin was draped in a Tricolour as it lay before the altar. This was a break from strict protocol which had originated at the same Long Tower church 30 years ago.
In March 1987, two masked IRA gunmen fired a volley of shots within the Church grounds at a requiem mass for IRA volunteer Gerard Logue was under way inside. Then Bishop of Derry Eddie Daly reacted with fury. Flags and paramilitary trappings have effectively been banned from Church funerals in the North ever since.