I, of course, never knew him, met him or even saw him in the flesh.
The only thing that I can add to what has already been said is an anecdote about him that Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume told me in Rosatos one night,
Said John, “You know, when Martin McGuinness first joined the IRA, his mother contacted me to try and talk him out of it.
“So I went over there and had a go. I didn’t manage it though” said John somewhat wistfully”.
He seemed quite rueful about what he saw his failure.
“Well, you did eventually, John.”
“I suppose so” he said.
Angels With Dirty Faces
I had an idea, one time, about doing a book or play or maybe a film about these two Derry men.
I don’t know if you ever saw the classic film “Angels With Dirty Faces.”
It had James Cagney in it.
As it is in black and white it hasn’t been aired, to my knowledge, in recent years.
Todays kids won’t watch anything in black or white.
Growing up in the Back Streets of New York
Anyway it is about two young boys who grew up together in the back streets of New York.
One, grew up to become a priest. The other, James Cagney, grew up to be a hood.
However, they kept in touch and remained friends.
The hood was a hero to the young guys in the young gangs in his area of New York.
Eventually the hood was to go to the electric chair.
The priest knew that the young street kids looked up to him and idolised him, so he asked the hood to beg for his life as he went to the electric chair.
He said that it was so that none of those young boys would want a life of crime eventually ending in the ‘chair’.
“Not a chance” said Cagney.
When the prison guards came to get him to take him to be executed he was very cocky.
Then just before he got there he started screaming and begging for his life. “Don’t kill me”.
Genuine or False
It was never said in the film whether he did it for his friend the priest and the young kids or whether he genuinely begged for his life. It left it to your imagination.
The last bit of the film is where the young lads, in a back alley, are reading the newspaper which said he screamed like a girl and begged for his life.
“It’s not true. It’s not true” said one of the kid.
“He’d never do that”.
Whereupon the preist came into view and told them it was true. He was there.
So, I thought it might make a good story to write about two young Derry lads who went different ways, one to violence to achieve his aims and the other sought those same goals through peace.
One went on to become he only person every to win the triple crown of Peace Prizes, The Nobel Peace prize, The Martin Luther King Award and the Ghandi Award for Peace. Not even Nelson Mandela won all three.
You can also throw in the Legion of Honour, France’s higest award which is seldom given to a foreigner.
Sinn Fein and the IRA
The other rose through the ranks of the IRA and Sinn Fein to be no.2 in both.
And eventually, the one who went the violent way, was a major player in the pursuit of peace. Despite having failed his eleven plus he went on to become Minister for Education and the Second Minister as well as becoming a firm friend of Ian Paisley.
Wouldn’t the way that these two Derry boys careers evolved make a great stage play or film?
They were on the same side in the end.
I’ll just make one other point – without comment.
McGuinness from Derry or Londonderry?
I first saw news of it on Channel 4 News last night. They called the place where Guiness grew up and was taken back last night as Derry.
Once they said, it is called Londerry by some, but otherwise they called it Derry.
I then turned over to the BBC who called McGuinness’s home city Londonderry every time.
I wondered what Sky News would say and turned it over to see.
The English newscasters danced around it, not referring to Derry at all. One of them said that McGuinness was taken back to ‘his home town’ last night – although the Northern Ireland correspondent, David Blevins referred to it as Derry several times.
I make no comment other than that.