I attended the funeral of Martin McGuinness this afternoon to express my personal respect and condolences to his family.
In my role as Commissioner for Victims and Survivors, I am very conscious of the emotional impact his passing has had on many victims and survivors. I have spoken to victims and survivors over the past two days for whom Martin McGuinness’s death has re-kindled memories and feelings of personal pain and loss. Loss of people who never had the chance to realise their potential or to watch their children grow up. Nobody can argue the right of each person to their own feelings and reflections at this time.
It is a mark of the nature of people here that these reflections have typically been expressed with dignity and with regard for his family and their loss and pain. There have also been personal stories from victims and survivors of positive meetings with him and of his considerable contribution to peace and reconciliation.
Reconciliation is about reaching out and building bridges on difficult personal and political ground and often victims and survivors have been the leaders in this. One remarked to me that peace is built on talking to those one regards as enemies, and that keeping that peace means recognising their achievements as well as your own.
I was interviewed and appointed to this role by Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister, together with the then First Minister Peter Robinson. I met with him on a number of occasions after that, not all of them easy ones. However I had no doubt of his personal commitment to addressing legacy issues, providing support services to victims and survivors and to achieving peace and to making it a lasting legacy.
One other thing which I am certain of as I listen to the many reflections on his passing, is that the pain of the past resonates through the present and that we have a challenge that must be met in dealing with the legacy of the past. One thing that this will safeguard is the shared goal of all those who have suffered loss and harm; that it must never happen again. Victims from all parts of our community must be at the centre and forefront of this endeavour for a better future for all.