Whatever you think of Martin McGuinness, or of his remarkable journey from senior IRA commander and reputedly Army Council member to Deputy First Minister in the Northern Ireland government, one thing is clear.
He was engaged in secret peace discussions with the British Government from 1972 onwards. And there is little doubt that, along with Gerry Adams, McGuinness was instrumental in turning the Republican movement away from continued violence and towards political engagement. He was a man driven in his eyes to violence, who came to reject violence as a political tool.
What is also certain is that without him, in all probability, Ireland and Britain would still be mired in violence over the future of the six counties.
He took huge personal risks for peace. His critics, he said were afraid of change.
“They would love the IRA to go back to war. I’m delighted that we have not fallen into this trap.
“I’m delighted that we have an organisation which understands the political dynamics [of the peace process].
“There is a confidence and assertiveness among nationalists,” he continued.
“We know who we are, we are Irish, we are proud of it.”
His republican credentials remained impeccable to his death. And ultimately, we all owe him respect for playing a fundamental – perhaps the most fundamental – role in stilling the guns.
McGuinness was living proof that we really can – and sometimes do – beat the swords we grasp all too readily into ploughshares.
Ireland is poorer for his passing.