A Protestant church leader from Derry who forged a remarkable friendship with the late Martin McGuinness says Northern Ireland has been ‘leaderless’ since his death.
Rev. David Latimer, of First Derry Presbyterian Church, believes the local political scene has been in ‘freefall’ since the Derry republican’s passing in March 2017.
‘It’s as if the road map Martin was using to gently move us forward has been buried with him,” Rev. Latimer told the ‘Journal’ this week.
“I have lost count of the number of people, including many from the Protestant/Unionist tradition, who have said to me, ‘if your friend was still with us, we’d not be where we are now’.”
“Martin was able to see the bigger picture... He was anxious to make the new path he’d chosen work for everybody. Sadly, he did not live long enough to see that come to pass. Now that he’s gone, Northern Ireland appears to be leaderless and the body politic in freefall.”
“Nobody else has been able to show us how it is possible for the extremes of Northern Ireland politics to work together That is a worry.”
Northern Ireland has been without a powersharing Executive since January 2017 when a coalition led by the two biggest parties, the DUP and Sinn Féin, collapsed after a row over a flawed green energy scheme.
There have been several rounds of failed negotiations since but the parties have, so far, been unable to reach a deal to restore the institutions.
David Latimer is convinced that, had Mr McGuinness recovered from his illness, he would have continued to “tirelessly work to make a way out of no way”.
He added: “‘I don’t do problems, I only do solutions’” was one of Martin’s sayings and proof of this is evident from his track record as a peace-maker and society-shaper. If there is anything I’ve learned from knowing Martin McGuinness it is this: nothing great is ever achieved suddenly. It’s a process. We must keep plugging away so as to banish old grudges and hard attitudes that only serve to keep us apart and prevent us from moving forward.”
Rev. Latimer’s remarks come ahead of the publication of a new book in which he traces his relationship with Martin McGuinness.
“A Leap of Faith”, which will be available to buy in the next few weeks, covers every aspect of a unique friendship that developed over 10 years, including the often bitter backlash Rev. Latimer suffered from within his own community.
Rev. Latimer is donating all his royalities from the book to the North West Cancer Centre at Altnagelvin Hospital.