Thousands of mourners from throughout Ireland gathered in the late afternoon sunshine yesterday to say a final farewell to their “friend, leader, comrade and inspiration”.
There was a stillness in the air as a piper, playing ‘Amazing Grace’, led the funeral cortege to Martin McGuinness’s final resting place in the republican plot in the city cemetery.
Among the sea of people, some who had stood for hours in the bitter cold, a banner was held high above the crowd which included the words ‘Martin McGuinness - Irish Martyr’.
After Amhrán na bhFiann filled the Derry air, against the backdrop of a Tricolour at half mast, Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald told mourners “our hearts are broken”.
“But our spirits are high because we could never say how proud we are of our Martin McGuinness,” the Sinn Fein TD said at his graveside.
Michelle O’Neill, Martin McGuinness’s successor, said Mr. McGuinness was “a leader and a friend to all of us”.
“He was a man of great passion; passion for his family and passion for his country,” she said. “He inspired us, he challenged us, he led us from the front.”
Before reading ‘Breach Gheal’, a poem written by Martin McGuinness in 2001, Mrs. O’Neill said Martin McGuinness’s legacy would ‘live on in our hearts”.
“We will build on all of his good work,” she said, adding he would take his place with Pearse, Connolly and Tone.
“They have never left us and Martin certainly never will,” said Mrs. O’Neill.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams delivered a graveside oration.
Mr. Adams told the packed cemetery that “Ireland has lost a hero, and Derry has lost a son”.
“But Martin’s family has suffered the biggest loss of all”.
Mr. Adams said Martin McGuinness was “not a terrorist”, but a “freedom fighter”.
“He was also a political prisoner, a negotiator, a peacemaker, a healer,” said Mr Adams.
Mr. Adams appealed to both nationalists and unionists to be kind to each other, treat each other with respect and urged them to lead, as Martin led, by example.
“Let us learn to like each other, to be friends, to celebrate and enjoy our differences and to do so on the basis of common sense, respect and tolerance for each other and everyone else - as equals,” he said.
“Let me appeal also to nationalists and republicans - do nothing to disrespect our unionist neighbours or anyone else.”
Celebrated Irish folk singer Christy Moore sang the final song - ‘The Time has Come’ - at the graveside.