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  • Writer's pictureGreg O'Loughlin

Gerry Kelly MLA Addresses Inaugural Martin McGuinness Peace Foundation Dinner

Gerry Kelly, Sinn Féin MLA for North Belfast was the special guest at the inaugural Martin McGuinness Peace Foundation Dinner on Wednesday night. It was a packed house of many supporters and included Martin's wife Bernie and son Emmet.

Mr Kelly said, "Martin felt at home here. He loved New York. The city, its energy and especially its people and his many, many friends. It is great to be here with those friends and especially with his wife Bernie and son Emmet, to remember and celebrate the life and legacy of Martin.

"Or should I say-lives. Martin lived many lives in one lifetime. A leader, a statesman but also a soldier, a political prisoner, a negotiator, a peacemaker, a politician, a poet, a reconciler.

"A dedicated Irish republican committed to uniting our people and our country. He lived the republican ideals of equality and fraternity. Opposed discrimination in all its forms and abhorred sectarianism.

"He was also a husband, a father and grandfather. We, in the Republican family, will be forever grateful to Bernie and the McGuinness family for sharing him with us and for the sacrifices they made as a family.

"I first met Martin in 1989. I wasn’t long out of prison and was in Sinn Féin in Belfast, initially working in the Prisoners Department and then in the Press Office on the Falls Road. He came in one day to do a meeting with Gerry Adams and Gerry introduced me to him.

"He was a legend in Republican circles and I was a bit nervous about what to say. But Martin gave me a strong, welcoming handshake and spoke to me as if he had known me for years. He asked questions about my family, about my time in jail and what I was doing. It wasn’t a political conversation, just a conversation to make me feel at ease.

"He had come from Derry to do a leadership meeting but still spent the time to make a comrade, feel at ease in his company."

He continued, "He is missed. His leadership lives on in a new generation as we move forward from strength to strength North and South in Ireland.

"He continues to inspire a generation of younger activists who have learned from his example as we manage the peaceful transition from the partition of Ireland to Irish Unity

"Martin is remembered in the events which are supported by the foundation. In the sporting endeavours of young people. On a riverbank with those patiently casting a fly on running water. In the imagination of poets. In a moment of the quiet reflection of a walk in Martin’s honor.

"I want to pay a special tribute to Marty Glennon, a great friend of Martin’s, for being the driving force behind the Chieftains walk and tonight’s event.

"The foundation is so important in building reconciliation, understanding and unity.

"It is not about a monument. It is about celebrating, about creating, about activity. It is a living, vital remembering."

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