Martin McGuinness dies aged 66

HMS Illustrious leaves Portsmouth for the last time
Picture: Shaun Roster

RETRO: Watch the last voyage of HMS Illustrious from Portsmouth

18
Have your say

Northern Ireland’s former deputy first minister and ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness has died aged 66.

Sinn Fein said in a statement : ‘It is with deep regret and sadness that we have learnt of the death of our friend and comrade Martin McGuinness who passed away in Derry during the night. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.’

Martin McGuinness has died aged 66 c0932879-984a-48f1-a783-6569b4f6

Martin McGuinness has died aged 66 c0932879-984a-48f1-a783-6569b4f6

Mr McGuinness stood down in January in protest at the DUP’s handling of the ‘cash for ash’ energy scandal, triggering a snap election.

His retirement came amid health concerns, but he, his family and colleagues did not specify the nature of his illness.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams paid tribute to his lifelong friend, saying: ‘ Throughout his life Martin showed great determination, dignity and humility and it was no different during his short illness.

‘He was a passionate republican who worked tirelessly for peace and reconciliation and for the reunification of his country.

‘But above all he loved his family and the people of Derry and he was immensely proud of both.

‘On behalf of republicans everywhere we extend our condolences to Bernie, Fiachra, Emmet, Fionnuala and Grainne, grandchildren and the extended McGuinness family.

During his time in office Mr McGuinness forged an unlikely friendship with then Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Ian Paisley and the two earned the nickname the Chuckle Brothers.

A Twitter account in the name of Mr Paisley’s son Kyle said: ‘ Very sorry to hear about the passing of Martin McGuinness. Look back with pleasure on the remarkable year he and my father spent in office together and the great good they did together.

‘Will never forget his ongoing care for my father in his ill health.’

Mr McGuinness was described as a ‘great guy’ by former Labour communications chief Alastair Campbell.

He tweeted: ‘So sad Martin McGuinness has died. Some will never forgive his past but without him there would be no peace. The man I knew was a great guy.’

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins led tributes from the Republic, saying Mr McGuinness’s death leaves a gap that will be hard to fill.

‘The world of politics and the people across this island will miss the leadership he gave, shown most clearly during the difficult times of the peace process, and his commitment to the values of genuine democracy that he demonstrated in the development of the institutions in Northern Ireland,’ he said.

Mr Higgins said Mr McGuinness made an immense contribution to peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Mr McGuinness’s death is a ‘significant moment in the history of this island’.

He described the journey of the former IRA man to the forefront of the political scene as ‘remarkable’.

Extending sympathy to Mr McGuinness’s wife and children, he said: ‘It is appropriate that we reflect on Martin’s remarkable journey, made possible by men and women from all traditions across this island who forged a peace process from the fire of a terrible conflict.

‘History will record his political career as a journey - one born in a tradition of violence but, in a testament to Martin’s character, that arrived at his true calling in politics, people and the art of persuasion.

‘Those who knew him will know that his warm and affable nature undoubtedly made it easier to reach beyond his own political base.

‘The generosity that he displayed in developing relationships with Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson demonstrated a rare gift that came as much from his personality as his politics. It is that gift which is needed in our politics at this moment.

‘As a Derry MLA, as mayor and as SDLP leader, I always enjoyed a warm and respectful relationship with Martin McGuinness.

‘This will be an immensely difficult time for Bernie and their children. On behalf of the SDLP, our thoughts are with them all.’

Democratic Unionist leader and former Stormont first minister Arlene Foster said she offered ‘sincere condolences’.

‘Today’s news will come as a shock to many people,’ she said.

‘First and foremost, Martin McGuinness was a much loved husband, father and grandfather.

‘My thoughts and prayers are with his wife and the family circle at this very painful time of grief and loss.’

She said history would record differing views on Mr McGuinness but he had played a pivotal role in bringing the republican movement toward peace.

Mr McGuinness’s successor as the party’s leader at Stormont, Michelle O’Neill, paid tribute.

She tweeted: ‘My heart is broke this morning. We have lost a legend, a giant of a man. I’m very proud to say he was my friend and mentor x.’