DROMORE-born Presbyterian Minister, Reverend David Latimer, has come under fire following his historic speech at last week’s Sinn Fein Ard Fheis.
Rev Latimer, who also served in Glascar for some time, is the first Presbyterian minister to address the party’s annual conference but has been criticised for doing so and for hailing the Deputy First Minister “one of the true great leaders of modern times”.
Mr Latimer, who is now a minister in Londonderry, opened his speech with high praise for the Sinn Fein politician - who has admitted he was a member of the IRA.
“My goodness, how can I follow Martin McGuinness?” he asked.
“Frankly, I don’t think I can because I see you, Martin, as one of the true great leaders of modern times.”
The minister’s address was greeted with a round of applause and two standing ovations at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall on Friday night.
Mr Latimer, who served as a Territorial Army chaplain in Afghanistan three years ago, said he was “overwhelmed” by the reception he got at the meeting.
He told the crowd of about 500 who had gathered that the move to invite him was a progressive one.
“You invitation to me, a Protestant minister, is forward-looking and timely.”
He said only around five per cent of the messages he had received in the run-up to his address at the Ard Fheis were negative.”
But the minister came in for criticism from DUP MLA Gregory Campbell, who said his appearance and words at the meeting were “an insult” to victims of IRA bombings and shootings.
Speaking before introducing Mr Latimer, Martin McGuinness said the two are good friends. “Over the years I’ve made many friends in the Protestant churches.” he told the crowd. “David is my friend. We have different allegiances but that’s alright.”