Martin McGuinness death

Former deputy first minister dies aged 66

Sorcha Pollak Tue, Mar 21
 
LIVE: Martin McGuinness death

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  • 07:40
    Martin McGuinness has died aged 66. Follow us here for the latest reaction and tributes to the former deputy first minister of Northern Ireland.
  • 07:44
    Sinn Féin issued a statement shortly after 6am on Tuesday confirming that Mr McGuinness had died.

    Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said: "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.

    "He was a passionate republican who worked tirelessly for peace and reconciliation and for the re-unification 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.

    "I measc laochra na nGael go raibh a anam dílis."
  • 07:51

    Former First Minister Arlene Foster offered her “sincere condolences, both personally and on behalf of our party, to the McGuinness family upon hearing the news of his death.

    Ms Foster, whose refusal to stand aside over the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme prompted Mr McGuinness to resign as Deputy First Minister thus triggering a political crisis, said “history will record differing views and opinions on the role Martin McGuinness played throughout the recent and not so recent past”.

    “But history will also show that his contribution to the political and peace process was significant,” she said. “He served the people of Northern Ireland as Deputy First Minister for nearly a decade and was pivotal in bringing the republican movement towards a position of using peaceful and democratic means.”

    “In recent years his contribution helped build the relative peace we now enjoy. While our differing backgrounds and life experiences inevitably meant there was much to separate us, we shared a deep desire to see the devolved institutions working to achieve positive results for everyone.”

  • 08:03

    Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan  commended Martin McGuinness for “his embrace of the politics of peace” and the “immense personal contribution” he made to building and consolidating the peace of this island.

    “His own personal journey from militant republicanism to deputy First Minister in a power-sharing administration with unionism helped to map the road to the Good Friday Agreement and its vision of partnership and reconciliation,” said Mr Flanagan.

    “Martin’s generosity of spirit; his courageous leadership; and his ability to stretch himself in the pursuit of political stability inspired many others to do the same.

    “He led with patience, with courtesy, and with a willingness to see and acknowledge the goodwill in others – even if those people were far removed from his own republican tradition.

    “Martin was deeply rooted in Derry, with great affection for its people, its places and its sporting traditions. But above all it was his family that was at the centre of Martin’s life.

    “For Bernie, his children and grandchildren, Martin’s untimely loss is very difficult to bear and they are in all our thoughts at this very sad time.”  

  • 08:04
  • 08:11
  • 08:18

    British prime minister Theresa May has described McGuinness as “one of the pioneers of implementing cross community power sharing in Northern Ireland”.

    “While I can never condone the path he took in the earlier part of his life, Martin McGuinness ultimately played a defining role in leading the Republican movement away from violence,” said Ms May in a statement. “While we certainly didn’t always see eye-to-eye even in later years, as deputy First Minister for nearly a decade he was one of the pioneers of implementing cross community power sharing in Northern Ireland.”

    “At the heart of it all was his profound optimism for the future of Northern Ireland – and I believe we should all hold fast to that optimism.”

  • 08:19
  • 08:22

    President Michael D Higgins issued a statement early on Tuesday, praising Mr McGuinness’s contribution to the peace process.

    “It was with great sadness that I have heard of the passing of Martin McGuinness, and on behalf of Sabina and myself, may I express our deepest sympathy to his wife Bernadette and to his family,” said Mr Higgins.

    “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.

    “As President of Ireland, I wish to pay tribute to his immense contribution to the advancement of peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland - a contribution which has rightly been recognised across all shades of opinion.”

    “In addition to his services in public life, as an inclusive believer in community in all its forms he will also be remembered for his warm support for Derry GAA and Derry FC, having been an outstanding, championship winning Football player in Derry’s U21 and senior teams.

    “His death leaves a gap that will be difficult to fill. May he rest in peace.”

  • 08:24
  • 08:36
    Former deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, former British prime minister Tony Blair, former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain and former first minister Ian Paisley in Stormont in May 2007. Photograph: Paul Faith/Pool/PA Wire
    Former deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, former British prime minister Tony Blair, former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain and former first minister Ian Paisley in Stormont in May 2007. Photograph: Paul Faith/Pool/PA Wire
  • 08:42

    In the paper’s obituary for McGuinness, The Irish Times notes that Ireland came to know two Martins.

    One was, for much of his life, a man of war and conflict, dedicated to fighting, as hard as he could, the British authorities, police, army and intelligence services.

    The second McGuinness was a man of peace and reconciliation, who for a decade worked hard at building bridges with both London and unionism, from fighting the British state to negotiating with it, from being denounced by the Rev Ian Paisley and ascribing bigotry to him, to chuckling with him.

    The debate will go on for decades about whether he should receive more denunciation than appreciation, more blame than credit, and whether the deeds of the once violent republican should be excused in light of his last pacific decade.

    Of all the major gestures made to embed peace, only his negotiation with a Canadian general about IRA decommissioning came up to that Stormont moment.

    Shaking hands with Queen Elizabethby comparison was a courtesy long expected. Turning his back in public on the IRA he once led, and the methods he once commanded, had an unmatchable charge.

    Footage of the moment shows Orde jolt towards him at the word “traitors”. Sinn Féin officials said later they had no idea he would say it.

    Read the full obituary here.  

  • 08:45
  • 08:56

    In the Guardian’s obituary of Martin McGuinness, journalist and former communications director for Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell, writes that if asked to pick just one great memory from his time working with in Downing Street, he would choose the Good Friday agreement.

    It was magical. A lot of that was about the collection of personalities from across politics that came together to make history – and Martin McGuinness was a big part of the success it became.

    While Campbell says Sinn Féin were often “exasperating” during the years of negotiations around the Good Friday agreement, he remembers Blair suggesting that the staff be more sympathetic to their difficulties, “pointing out that they were going about this business with a not unreasonable fear that someone might put a bullet in their heads even for talking to us”.

    “What Martin McGuinness and the Sinn Féin leadership did in negotiating for peace took courage,” writes Campbell. “Once he decided to make the change to pursuing democracy – and I believe he did so some years before New Labour came on the scene – I think he genuinely made the change.

    “As time went on I saw somebody very different from the murderous hardman IRA commander image. I saw someone was was very human, very likeable, and dedicated to making the new path he had chosen work for the people he represented.  

    “Tony Blair always said that peace processes never stand still: they either move forwards or they move backwards. Martin McGuinness was someone who, once he made the choice of democracy over terror, wanted to move the process forward.

  • 09:04
    The groundbreaking meeting in 2012 between Queen Elizabeth II and Martin McGuinness when they shook hands for the first time. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire
    The groundbreaking meeting in 2012 between Queen Elizabeth II and Martin McGuinness when they shook hands for the first time. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire
  • 09:19
  • 09:22

    Taoiseach Enda Kenny described McGuinness as “one of the chief architects of the Good Friday Agreement and he worked resolutely in the years that followed it in pursuit of its full implementation. “

    Martin will always be remembered for the remarkable political journey that he undertook in his lifetime. Not only did Martin come to believe that peace must prevail, he committed himself to working tirelessly to that end.”

    Mr Kenny said Mr McGuinness “strove to make Northern Ireland a better place for everyone, regardless of background or tradition”.

  • 09:25
  • 09:36

    Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern described Mr McGuinness as an extraordinary person, honest in his efforts and an upfront negotiator.

    “He listened and he was able, I think, to arbitrate between different points of view,"    he told RTE Radio.

    Mr Ahern said he could “totally” understand why Mr McGuinness joined the IRA but also put his life on the line to pursue peace.

    “I think Martin McGuinness would have been happier following Derry GAA club or Derry City or fly fishing in Donegal,” he said. “He was a good person in my view.

    “He moved from a very difficult past where he took a particular side and he was a good person to negotiate with and certainly I considered him as a good friend as we went through 25 years of discussions.”  

  • 09:36
  • 09:47
    Photo from March 1988 shows an injured man being aided by mourners, including Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness at Milltown Cemetary in Belfast after a gun and bomb attack killed three and left four seriously injured, at the funerals of three IRA members killed in Gibraltar. Photograph: David Jones/PA Wire
    Photo from March 1988 shows an injured man being aided by mourners, including Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness at Milltown Cemetary in Belfast after a gun and bomb attack killed three and left four seriously injured, at the funerals of three IRA members killed in Gibraltar. Photograph: David Jones/PA Wire
  • 09:51
  • 09:56

     Former taoiseach John Bruton said despite his “profound political differences” with Martin McGuinness, he always found him “to be a very friendly person and easy to talk to”.

    “The good and warm personal relationship he developed with Ian Paisley set a very good example. But it has yet to be followed by a genuine political reconciliation between the two communities they represented. It is sad that Martin will not be around to complete the important task he undertook.”  

  • 10:04

    British conservative politician Norman Tebbit described McGuinness as a “coward” following the news of his death. Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme, Lord Tebbit, who was in Brighton’s Grand Hotel when it was bombed in 1984, said the world was now “a sweeter and cleaner place”.

    "It's not merely these creatures [the Brighton bombers] crippled my wife, but they also murdered five of my friends,” he said. “I only hope that his death will help to bring some sort of closure to those families and friends of whose murder he's accomplished."

  • 10:11

    Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said McGuinness’ death "represents a very sad moment in the shared history of the island of Ireland".

    “By all his actions and words over the last 25 years, he demonstrated a keen understanding of what the Peace Process was all about.”

    “He worked to build bridges between the different traditions and communities on the island. He reached out to the Unionist community in particular, and their leaders, to steer Northern Ireland towards a better shared future. His leadership with former DUP leader, the late Revd Ian Paisley, was a striking illustration of this.

    “As a man, he possessed great humility, and was very personable. His work in the Peace Process will undoubtedly inspire others to follow his legacy in continuing to build stronger bridges between both traditions on this island.”

  • 10:18
    Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton with former Northern Ireland first minister Peter Robinson and former deputy first minister Martin McGuiness making their way to speak to the press ahead of a meeting in October 2010 at the State Department in Washington, DC. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
    Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton with former Northern Ireland first minister Peter Robinson and former deputy first minister Martin McGuiness making their way to speak to the press ahead of a meeting in October 2010 at the State Department in Washington, DC. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
  • 10:27

    In this morning’s Irish Times Inside Politics digest, Harry McGee writes that Ireland has “lost one of its political giants”.

    “Since those very stark images of a clearly sick and feeble McGuinness were broadcast in January, people were fully aware that he was battling against a serious condition. Still in his late 60s, his death is shocking and untimely.

    “The Derry man was one of the few Sinn Fein leaders who was open about his IRA past, even though we will never know the extent of his involvement, having been given only a sliver of a glimpse from him.  

    “Ironically, unlike Gerry Adams whose IRA past will always bedevil his legacy, McGuiness will be remembered in history primarily as a politician and not as an IRA volunteer/rebel/terrorist, depending on your perspective.  

    “He was clear, articulate and committed without doubt to his cause. When those flinty blue eyes stared with the intensity of a gas blowtorch, his opponents knew they would need to have their thoughts well rounded.  

    “The strongest part of his political armoury was his charm and his humour, his ability to reach out to those who were not only allies but who were hostile, or were enemies.  

    “The only real blip for him in recent years was the Presidential election where he was constantly reminded of the egregious acts the IRA had committed in the South in the name of Irish freedom.  

    “In his last interview with Tommy Gorman on RTE, McGuinness said he was very proud of where he came from, that he had been deputy prime minister in a shared administration for the centenary celebrations of 1916.  

    “History will remember him primarily as a politician rather than a soldier. That is a powerful legacy.”

  • 10:28
  • 10:40
    Martin McGuinness speaks at a press conference in central London in 1998. Photograph: Dave Thomson/AP Photo
    Martin McGuinness speaks at a press conference in central London in 1998. Photograph: Dave Thomson/AP Photo
  • 10:47

    Former president Mary McAleese has spoken about how she recently visited Martin McGuinness who she said was “completely at peace with himself”.

    “It was very evident that he was very ill, but I wanted to say thank you to him for his efforts that led to the construction of a future that our grandchildren will enjoy,” she told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke.


    “I was very grateful to have shared that time with him and his family. His life featured very dramatic chapters – the last chapter showed us a side of that man – a very strong personal character.”

    Ms McAleese said that as a young man he had made a choice, as did many others in Derry at that time, and had taken the path of violence.

    “Look at the trajectory of his life, he was dedicated to the betterment of his community. He persuaded others that the best way forward was not through violence, but through politics.

    “Through his leadership skills he brought the IRA on board. Without the trust and faith that the IRA had in him, we wouldn’t have the peace that we have enjoyed since the Good Friday Agreement.”

    She added that his “emollient personality” in very difficult circumstances had helped “smooth all of history’s toxicity”.

    He had shown what “parity of esteem” should look like, she said. To be able to bridge gaps between both sides was one of his great characteristics.

     

  • 11:00
  • 11:25
  • 11:37

    Eileen Paisley, the wife of Ian Paisley, was in constant touch with Martin McGuinness throughout his illness until his phone was taken from him in hospital to allow him to sleep, according to RTE.  

    After Ian Paisley’s death in September 2014, Eileen Paisley revealed that McGuinness had been very supportive to the family during her husband’s long illness and said their friendship had meant a great deal to her husband.

    Speaking at an event in Belfast in October 2015, Mrs Paisley said: “During Ian’s illness, he [Martin] contacted me. He would have texted me just to ask how Ian was, and say he was thinking about him.

    “It was very precious to us as a family. It gave Ian a lot of happiness as well to know that he had left that impression with [him].
    “His friendship with Martin McGuinness had meant something very special to him.”

    After Paisley’s death, McGuinness himself spoke about their friendship.
    “Despite our differences, I found him to be a charismatic and powerful personality. He always treated me and those who worked with me with respect and courtesy.

    “The peace process and I have lost a friend,” he said.  

  • 11:40
  • 11:46

    Martin McGuinness was always both famous and mysterious, well known for his surreptitious life, writes Fintan O’Toole.

    “Perhaps only an island as intimate as ours could produce such an easily recognisable leader of a secret army: from the early 1970s McGuinness was the public face of an organisation that liked to hide its face in a balaclava," writes O'Toole.  

    “If he were not a ruthless and unrepentant exponent of violence he would never have become such a key figure in bringing violence to an end.

    “His very name could make things happen, because it was a synonym for the IRA. It is one of the ironies of his history that one of the most potent actions attached to that name was not his at all.

    "No one tried harder than he did to make power come from the barrel of a gun, and when that failed no one tried harder to make it come from making deals, creating compromises, keeping the democratic show on the road.

    "The hard man will be a very hard man to replace."

  • 11:56
  • 11:57
  • 12:01
    That's all from our live coverage of reaction to Martin McGuinness' death but you can continue to read the latest news on the life of the former deputy first minister throughout the day at irishtimes.com.