Clinton: McGuinness "expanded the definition of 'us', and shrunk the definition of 'them'"

The former president of the United States gave the eulogy at the former First Minister's funeral

Former US President Bill Clinton has said the best tribute to the late Martin McGuinness' legacy is to continue and complete the work of peace.

Giving the eulogy at the First Minister's funeral, Clinton said McGuinness grew up "at a time of rage and resentment not only in Ireland but across the world" and said his motivation for becoming involved in the IRA was down to his hatred of discrimination.

"He was part of the rage of his time," he said. "He hated the discrimination and he decided to oppose by whatever means available to the passionate young, including violence.

"Somewhere along the way for whatever reason he decided to give peace a chance."

Clinton also took the opportunity to thank DUP leader Arlene Foster for attending the funeral.

On his character, Clinton said McGuinness praised his "listening skills", attributing his success as a peacemaker to his commitment to compromise

"He succeeded because his word was good, his listening skills were good - he was not afraid to make a compromise and he was strong enough to keep it if he made it.

"He realised you could have an Ireland that was free and independent and self-governing and still inclusive - that the dreams of little children were no more or less legitimate just because of their faith background or the sins of their parents.

"He risked the wrath of his comrades and the rejection of adversaries [...] And he never stopped being who he was - a good husband, a good father and a passionate believer in a free, secure Ireland.

"He expanded the definition of 'us', and shrunk the definition of 'them'."

McGuinness's remains will shortly be removed to the City Cemetery in Derry, where thousands of people lined the streets to watch his remains pass by.


Former US President Bill Clinton touches the coffin during the funeral of Northern Ireland's former deputy first minister and ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness at St Columba's Church Long Tower, in Londonderry. Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images

Praise for Kenny

Clinton also thanked the Taoiseach Enda Kenny's speech in Washington on St. Patrick's Day.

In his speech, Kenny thanked President Donald Trump for “giving so much of his time” to help celebrate St Patrick’s legacy as “the patron of immigrants”. 

He appealed to the President to take a more favourable view of immigrants - but made no mention of Mr Trump’s controversial travel ban on six predominantly Muslim countries.

“Ireland came to America, because deprived of liberty, opportunity, safety and even food itself, we believed.

“Four decades before Lady Liberty lifted her lamp we were the wretched refuse on the teeming shore,” Mr Kenny said.

“We believed in the shelter of America, in the compassion of America, in the opportunity of America. We came and became Americans.

“We lived the words of JFK long before he uttered them – we asked not what America could do for us but what we could do for America. And we still do."