Martin McGuinness (1950–2017) in Alastair Campbell’s Irish Diaries (Lilliput Press, 2013)
As British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s right-hand man, former journalist and political analyst Alastair Campbell played a critical role in every aspect of New Labour strategy. Charting the course of British government from July 1994 to August 2003, Campbell’s relentlessly honest, often controversial, occasionally brutal, and always razor-sharp commentary has drawn critical acclaim from around the world.
In The Irish Diaries (1994–2003), Campbell recalls the integral role Martin McGuinness played in the Northern Ireland peace process. Although the imposing character of McGuinness was ‘always sizing things up, with a smile that veered from charm to menace’, Campbell admits finding McGuinness ‘impressive’ as someone who ‘made a point and battered it, and forced you to take it on board.’
Campbell found that, during the gruelling hours of the peace process, his fellow negotiators ‘became [his] friends, because [he] then had inside [him] something of the passions they felt inside them.’ Of Martin McGuinness, he says, ‘Whatever he had done in the past, there was a directness to him that I liked and he was driven by a genuine sense of grievance about the way people were forced to live.’
Campbell’s final assessment of the Sinn Féin leaders was that they believed ‘democracy and dialogue [was] the way of the future’ and that ‘Adams and McGuinness were genuinely trying to move towards non-violence’: a crucial standpoint for all parties involved. Campbell’s recollections uncover his respect for the efforts of McGuinness and recognize the importance and sensitivity of his role in the peace process.
Lilliput Press salutes a great Irishman who contributed significantly to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. RIP