Sinn Féin’s top brass were out in force in the Members’ Dining Room on Wednesday night when the
Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl launched A Leap of
Faith, a book by Presbyterian minister David Latimer recalling his long friendship with the late Martin McGuinness.
In an endorsement on the front cover, Bill Clinton writes that their “remarkable” friendship “reminds us all about the importance of building bridges between faiths if we are to truly share the future”.
Former leader Gerry Adams joined his successor Mary Lou McDonald at the event, which was also attended by Martin’s wife, Bernie, who has written the book’s foreword. The unlikely friendship between the former IRA leader and the minister of Derry Presbyterian Church began over a decade ago, and the book covers a series of events, including the Rev Latimer’s speech at the Sinn Féin Ardfheis, McGuinness’s handshake with the queen, and their joint work for peace in Derry. The author also writes about his time as an army chaplain at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan in 2008.
Launching the book, Ó Fearghaíl spoke of the journey undertaken by the two, “their strange challenging journey of discovery – discovery of each other, of themselves and the communities in which they served”.
Meanwhile, McDonald told of the “enriching ties of friendship” which they built across the political divide and, in the case of McGuinness, “that sometimes got him into a bit of bother, including with us, his own republican family”.
She added: “It is only with the value of hindsight that many of us realise how right he was, how wise he was.”
Latimer got warm applause from the crowd – from across the political spectrum – for his opening lines: “A Ceann Comhairle, go raibh maith agat. Dia daoibh go léir. Is álainn liom a bheith anseo.”
He said it was “a great honour” to be in Leinster House and said he couldn’t believe it when he saw Bernie McGuinness there. She had been texting him when he was coming down to Dublin on the bus from Derry, but didn’t tell him she would be at the launch too.