Welcome to the latest edition of This Week on Twitter for Westminster HUB where we take a look at the week’s biggest political news and controversies through the eyes of Twitter. This week saw the death of a controversial figure in the recent history of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness. The former IRA leader and until January, deputy first minister, McGuinness died at the age of 66 due to a heart problem.
On Wednesday the tragic news of a probable terrorist attack in London broke. The random attack focused on the heart of British democracy, the Houses of Parliament, as the attacker drove a 4x4 car across Westminster Bridge and then reportedly attempted to enter the grounds of Parliament, killing five people before being fatally shot by police. Naturally Twitter erupted with sympathies and condolences from across the globe and the political spectrum.
Death of Martin McGuinness
On Tuesday morning news broke that Martin McGuinness had died aged 66. McGuinness was a controversial figure to many people having led the IRA for many years, an organisation that killed and injured hundreds of people, a sin that many on social media could not forget despite some fairly warm praise from high placed political figures including Tony Blair, Theresa May and the Queen. Some on Twitter were not impressed with what they saw as a wiping or omission of what McGuinness was partially responsible for during the troubles in the 1980s.
For others it was important that among all of the warm words and debate about Martin McGuinness the victims of the IRA bombings were remembered. It will undoubtedly be a day of conflicting emotions for those who were innocently caught up in the troubles and their families.
For those who were involved with and met Martin McGuinness in his later years, as he entered politics and helped establish the Northern Irish peace deal., he should be remembered for where he finished not where he started. Alistair Campbell tweeted to say that although he had a chequered past the man that he met during peace talks was ‘a great man.’
Lord Tebbit was one of the harshest critics on the morning the news was announced. Tebbit, whose wife was paralysed after being caught in an IRA bomb, said Martin McGuinness was, “A coward,” and that, “The world is a sweeter and cleaner place now.” This caused some controversy but many understood why he might feel that way about someone he held responsible for a personal tragedy.
Something mentioned by many during the condolences for McGuinness on Twitter was the journey he had gone on. Despite the violence it appeared that the former Deputy First Minister discovered that it was only through discussions and compromise that progress can be made. That was the message many on Twitter took from the passing.
Terror strikes the Houses of Parliament
Wednesday saw a second tragic event of the week as a terrorist attack killed 5 people including a police officer guarding Parliament and the terrorist himself. Taking place soon after Wednesday’s session of PMQs the murderer took to the pavement across Westminster Bridge hitting multiple pedestrians. After crashing the car the man, named on Thursday as 52-year-old Khalid Masood, attempted to enter the grounds of Parliament and fatally stabbed a policeman guarding the entrance. An armed policeman then fatally shot the attacker before any more damage could be inflicted.
Twitter was awash with messages of fear, sympathy and condolences after the event, including many world leaders and politicians uniting people across the political spectrum in grief, disbelief and support. Canadian President Justin Trudeau sent his wishes across the Atlantic expressing that Candaians were united with British people.
London mayor,Sadiq Khan, posted a defient message along with a video message that offered his condolences to those injured and thanks to the people and emergency services who helped. You can see the video here.
Theresa May later described the event as, “sick and depraved,” but vowed that “we all move forward together, never giving into terror and never allowing the voices of hate and evil to drive us apart.” The Prime Minister also thanked “the exceptional men and women,” of the emergency services for their efforts during the afternoon.
Parliament went in to lockdown for more than two hours as the event and its aftermath took place outside. David Liddington, leader of the house, announced to MPs what had happened and that there had been fatalities. He later took to his Twitter account to thank the police and security staff as well as sympathy for those suffering.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition, also took to Twitter to express his grief, condolences as well as thanks to all those who helped in stopping the attacker and in the aftermath. You can watch his video message here.
Next week one of the biggest events in the recent history of British politics will take place as Britain invokes Article 50 and the country begins it’s two year exit from the European Union. Negotiations will not begin immediately but focus turns towards Brussels and Europe who must figure out their next steps and targets. Donald Trump will also face an important couple of weeks as investigations continue in to his election campaign and links to Russia as well as his own attempts to agree to his budget and Obamacare reform.
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