Martin McGuinness funeral Mass under way

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, Sinn Féin southern leader Mary Lou McDonald and Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill carry the coffin of the late Martin McGuinness as the funeral cortege passes through the streets of Derry on 23 March 2017Image copyright
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Sinn Féin’s leaders carry the coffin through the streets of Derry

The funeral is under way of Northern Ireland’s former deputy first minister Martin McGuinness.

Mourners include former US President Bill Clinton and Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster, who both received a round of applause as they took their seats in church.

Thousands of people are lining the streets in Mr McGuinness’ native Bogside, a republican part of Derry.

The former IRA leader turned Sinn Féin politician died on Tuesday aged 66.

Mr McGuinness’ body was carried the short distance from his Bogside home to St Columba’s Church, Long Tower, where Mass is being held.

Chief celebrant Fr Michael Canny, who was a personal friend of Mr McGuinness, said there were people in the church “whose presence would have been unthinkable only a generation ago”.

“The presence of those political rivals and opponents who have come to pay their respects is the most eloquent testimony to the memory of Martin McGuinness,” he said.

Mr McGuinness was a “man of simple tastes who ascended to the political summit”, he continued.

Media captionDUP leader Arlene Foster applauded as she enters the church

“He visited the White House, Downing Street and Windsor Castle, but only ever felt at home in his beloved Bogside, returning to his wife and family at every opportunity,” he added.

A message was read out on behalf of Archbishop Eamon Martin, leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, who could not attend the funeral but had visited the McGuinness family on Wednesday.

The service is being relayed to the large crowds outside the church.

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Former US President Bill Clinton beside the coffin of Martin McGuinness

Mr McGuinness’ coffin is draped in an Irish tricolour but there will be no paramilitary trappings for the one-time IRA commander.

Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Enda Kenny, Irish President Michael D Higgins and Secretary of State James Brokenshire are among the high-profile political figures attending.

Numerous politicians from Northern Ireland’s Assembly are also there, as is police chief George Hamilton.

It is understood former US president Clinton will speak towards the end of the funeral service.

Media captionFormer US President Bill Clinton meets the McGuinness family

Following Requiem Mass, Mr McGuinness will be buried in the republican plot in the city cemetery where Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams will deliver a graveside oration.

Folk singer Christy Moore will sing the final song at the graveside.

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There had been reports that former British prime minister Tony Blair, who worked with Mr McGuinness to secure the Good Friday Agreement peace deal, would attend but his spokeswoman has confirmed he is not there.

The Irish tricolour is flying at half mast at the official residence of the Irish president as well as the Dáil (Irish parliament) as a mark of respect to Mr McGuinness.

Writing in the Belfast Telegraph, Mrs Foster said she recognised some will be critical of her decision to attend the funeral of a former IRA leader but added she wanted to pay “respect to his family”.

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Getty Images

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Mr McGuinness was very proud of his Bogside roots

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Former SDLP leader John Hume, who is rarely seen in public these days, and his wife Pat heading into the church

Mr McGuinness had been suffering from a rare heart condition, and he died at the Altnagelvin hospital, with his family by his bedside.

Many tributes from across the political spectrum have been paid to the republican figurehead.

However, some victims of the Troubles have expressed revulsion at media coverage of his death, with critics saying that Mr McGuinness was lauded as a peacemaker despite never having apologised for his IRA past.

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Former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern and former US President Bill Clinton arriving at the church

Martin McGuinness funeral Mass under way}

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