Among the comments made by politicians on the death of Martin McGuinness, the most nuanced was that by Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt.
While sympathising with the McGuinness family, he expressed the view that “no one needed to die to get Northern Ireland to where it is today”.
The reality is that non-violent protest failed to achieve an end to discrimination and sectarianism. In 1969, the Battle of the Bogside in Derry began as a peaceful protest but ended in a riot. It was followed by Bloody Sunday in 1972.
Martin McGuinness was part of the violent IRA response and it was because of his paramilitary standing that he was able to persuade his fellow gunmen to embark on the path of peace. Likewise Ian Paisley, whose inflammatory speeches gave succour to the loyalist gunmen.
Both McGuinness and Paisley were hawks, which made them part of the problem. But, as peacemakers, they were also an indispensable part of the solution.
Hawks making peace has been a recurrent theme in 20th century history. Most notable were Menachim Begin, Yasser Arafat, Nelson Mandela, and even Mahatma Gandhi, whose much professed policy of non-violence was something of a myth.
He once wrote: “Where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence...”
Sadly, history proves Mike Nesbitt wrong. It is the hawks and not the doves who make peace.
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