The Basque national liberation movement has described Martin McGuinness as a “great revolutionary and a great friend”.
Sortu, the left wing nationalist party established to fill the political vacuum created by the proscription of Batasuna, ETA’s political wing, paid warm tribute to Mr. McGuinness from Bilbao.
“He was a great friend of Euskal Herria [the Basque country] and of course, a great fighter who influenced the course of history.
“His militant contribution was always linked to Ernesto Che Guevara’s phrase, ‘Revolution is a sense of the historical moment’, not only when he faced the British occupation but also when the peace agreement was reached.
“He had to manage the subsequent political context. In Ireland peace would still be a distant dream if it were not for McGuinness and other people who put forward that goal,” a Sortu spokesperson said.
The group said the former IRA and Sinn Féin leader was extremely well informed about the intricacies of the Basque conflict with Spain and France.
“Martin McGuinness knew the Basque conflict perfectly. The fraternal ties between Izquierda Abertzale [the patriotic left] and Republicans served him during the last decades to know closely the way undertaken in Euskal Herria in the search for peace and freedom.
“In that sense, every time he has been asked to lend a hand he has always shown absolute availability. Proof of this are all the events and meetings held in Euskal Herria in which he participated and even all the work carried out in the International Contact Group, not to mention all the constant work of advice and lobbying in the Basque process,” the Sortu spokesperson added.
The organisation said Martin McGuinness drew on the struggle for national liberation in South Africa and that he had wanted to pass on some of that experience to the Basque left.
“In the struggles for the liberation of the people, rich experiences of incalculable value are given. The republican movement received much of South Africa, and Martin always insisted on leaving that legacy in the hands of the abertzale left.
“Therefore, we will always be indebted to him.
“Martin had internalized that phrase of Mandela - ‘If you want to make peace with enemy, you have to work with your enemy, then he becomes your partner’ - very well.”
The Sortu spokesperson concluded: “The left-wing has powerful reasons to be grateful to the Republican movement and Martin McGuinness.
“We are deeply moved by the loss of this Irish leader who has stood out worldwide for the struggle of the liberation of the people, since he was a great revolutionary and a great friend.
“Agur eta ohore [Farewell and honour] Martin McGuinness. The political legacy that you have also left in Euskal Herria is the seed that will bring peace and freedom, without a doubt. Eskerrik asko, lagun! [Thank you, my friend!]”