Updated: Applause and tears as PN bids emotional farewell to Guido de Marco

Updated: Applause and tears as PN bids emotional farewell to Guido de Marco

The Nationalist Party this morning gave an emotional farewell to former President Guido de Marco, its long-serving former deputy leader, as the cortege with his coffin stopped outside party headquarters while on its way from Mater Dei Hospital to the Palace in Valletta.

A big banner bearing a picture of Prof de Marco and the words Perseveranza and perswazjoni , the hallmarks of his political career, was displayed from the balcony of the headquarters building as a crowd of several hundred waited quietly outside. The banner also said Grazzi Guido.

Among those waiting for the cortege was Pietru Pawl Busuttil, whom Prof de Marco had stoutly defended in the infamous frame-up in 1986. Mr Busuttil said he owed Prof de Marco the opportunity he had given him to continue to enjoy his family.

Also outside PN headquarters to salute Prof de Marco were Eddie Fenech Adami and Ugo Mifsud Bonnici, both former Presidents, party colleagues, and friends since the 1940s.

The cortege, escorted by six police outriders, was driven slowly down part of St Joseph High Street in Hamrun, where Prof de Marco was hugely popular, and then turned towards PN headquarters.

The crowd burst into applause, some shouted 'Guido, Guido', and others threw flowers at the hearse as it drew up outside PN headquarters, where they could see the simple coffin. Many had tears in their eyes, including Mr Busuttil in what was a deeply emotional moment.

The cortege then continued its sad journey towards the Palace in Valletta.

Parliamentary Secretary Mario de Marco emerged from his car to thank the former Presidents, the party leadership and the crowd, amid further applause and tears.

Prof de Marco was a Nationalist MP for 33 years, having been elected at every general election from 1966, sometimes from two electoral divisions. He was general secretary under George Borg Olivier and deputy to Eddie Fenech Adami until he resigned from Parliament and the party to become President in 1999.

The PN has a book of consolence for Prof de Marco at headquarters.

People also lined Republic Street as the cortege arrived in Valletta. The hearse was first driven down St Paul Street, past Strickland House (Prof de Marco was chairman of the Strickland Foundation) and past the churches of St Paul and St Diminic.

The cortege then went down Republic Street to the Palace, where a crowd was waiting.

The coffin was carried into the Palace by, among others, Parliamentary Secretary Mario de Marco and close collaborators of Prof de Marco - with tears in their eyes - as the people applauded.

It was placed at the entrance of the Palace, at the foot of a 300-year-old crucifix, and four soldiers took up positions at the four corners, arms reversed in a sign of mourning.

The Palace was Prof de Marco's office as President between 1999 and 2004, and he also served there as an MP for 33 years.

President George Abela paid his respects at 10.30 a.m. accompanied by the de Marco family.

The PN leadership will call at the Palace at Noon. The Labour Party administration will pay its respects at 4 p.m. and will later sign the book of condolence at PN headquarters.

The former President will lie in state today until 7 p.m. people may also pay their respects tomorrow between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. and 4 and 7 p.m. and from 9 a.m. to noon on Monday.

The state funeral will be held on Monday afternoon, with Mass at St John's Co-Cathedral at 3.30 p.m.

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