01:17 - Source: CNN
Bill Clinton's moving eulogy for IRA leader

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Clinton urges people to continue building peace in Northern Ireland

Praises Irish PM for comments at Trump White House visit

CNN  — 

Former US President Bill Clinton traveled to Derry, Northern Ireland, on Thursday to give an impassioned eulogy at the funeral of former Irish Republican Army (IRA) commander and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness.

Clinton told the hundreds of people who packed St. Columba’s Church in Derry’s historic Bogside neighborhood to honor McGuinness by finishing his work to help bring peace to Northern Ireland.

McGuinness died Monday night after a short illness, according to the Sinn Fein party. He was 66.

McGuinness became Sinn Fein’s chief negotiator during the Northern Ireland peace process, working with Clinton on the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Former US President Bill Clinton touches the coffin Thursday of Martin McGuinness, the Northern Ireland politician and one-time IRA commander

Speaking of McGuinness’ transformation from onetime republican terrorist to peacemaker, Clinton said, “Somewhere along the way, for whatever reason, he decided to give peace a chance. Some of the reasons were principled, some were practical, but he decided.”

“So that’s what he did, he persevered, and he prevailed. He risked the rejection of his comrades and the wrath of his adversaries. He made honorable compromises and was strong enough to keep them, and came to be trusted because his word was good,” Clinton added.

Trump visit

Clinton also alluded to the current Irish Prime Minister’s recent visit to the White House, where he spoke about the importance of immigration at an event attended by President Donald Trump

“As an American, I have to say a special word of appreciation to the sitting Taoiseach for what he said in the United States on St. Patrick’s Day on behalf of the Irish immigrants,” Clinton told those gathered at the funeral.

Lifelong goal? End British rule

McGuinness rose through the ranks of the IRA, from stone-throwing youth to feared fighter and, finally, after joining the peace process, to elder statesman of Northern Irish politics.

Through all the twists and turns of his life, he was never in any doubt about what he wanted: an end to British rule in Northern Ireland.

McGuinness told CNN’s Nic Robertson, “I am an Irish republican. An Irish republican is someone who believes that the British government should have no part to play in the life of this island. We believe this island should be free.”

He, nonetheless, supported, with Clinton’s intervention, the Good Friday Agreement, which called for power-sharing between Catholic and Protestants, and for paramilitary groups including the IRA to decommission their weapons.

CNN’s Nic Robertson contributed to this report