Martin McGuinness’s successor urged politicians across Northern Ireland to choose hope over fear as she unveiled a portrait of the former deputy first minister.
As Mr McGuinness’s widow Bernie and four children looked on, Michelle O’Neill urged the region’s leaders to collectively turn a corner away from their recent political difficulties and create a new era.
The portrait by Belfast artist Tony Bell was unveiled in Parliament Buildings in Belfast just over a year since the former IRA commander turned Stormont leader died.
DUP leader Arlene Foster (right) and former leader Peter Robinson attend the unveiling of a portrait of former deputy first minister Martin McGuinness in the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings, Stormont (Brian Lawless/PA)
It will now hang in the same corridors as a painting of the late Ian Paisley – the man Mr McGuinness struck an unlikely friendship with as they led Northern Ireland together.
Mr Paisley’s successor as DUP leader and first minister Peter Robinson attended the unveiling, as did current leader Arlene Foster.
Mrs O’Neill, who succeeded Mr McGuinness as Sinn Fein’s Stormont leader, said he was an ordinary man who helped transform society during the peace process.
“It is with a broken heart but a heart bursting with pride that we remember Martin one year on,” she told a packed audience in the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings.
She added: “In his last public appeal Martin urged people to choose hope over fear, to put equality and respect for all of our people at the heart of powersharing.
“And therein lies the challenge for each and every one of us.
“How do we create the conditions where all of our people choose hope over fear, how do we achieve reconciliation together, how do we build bridges between our communities together, how do we govern on the basis of equal partnership together.
“We need to turn a corner and we need to enter a new era together.
“When people ask what is Martin McGuinness’s legacy I will tell them it is one of leadership, it is one of integrity, it is one of generosity and it is one of always choosing hope over fear and we would all do well to be guided by that principle.”
Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O’Neill (left) and former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams with Bernadette McGuinness wife of ex-deputy first minister Martin McGuinness at the unveiling of his portrait (Brian Lawless/PA)
In a ceremony which was emotional at times, Mrs McGuiness wept as she saw her husband’s painting for the first time. She then reached out a hand to touch the striking likeness of her late husband.
Earlier, their granddaughter Cara had sung a haunting version of the Christy Moore song the Voyage.
The couple’s four children Emmet, Fiachra, Grainne, Fionnuala attended the unveiling, as did members of the wider family.
Afterwards, Mr Robinson said it was “entirely proper and fitting” that a painting of a man he also came to regard as a friend should hang at Stormont.
He said the basis of their political partnership was trust.
“I don’t think either of us doubted the determination of the other to make the process work,” he said.
“I never had any doubt about Martin’s commitment to Stormont, to the Assembly, to the Executive – that’s a good starting point.”
Mr Bell, the artist, said he wanted his work to reflect the pride Mrs McGuinness had in her husband.
“It was clear how devoted they were as a couple and as a family,” he said.
He added: “If there is to be any symbolism in the portrait it was important to me that Martin should be seen as a statesman and the leader he was.
“After that there is only one other symbol I felt had to be included – one we could all recognise – that was his wedding ring.
“The symbol of his bond with his beloved wife and family who stood with him in good times and bad – always.”