Martin McGuinness dies aged 66

The former Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness has passed away after a short illness.

Tributes have already began flowing in from across the political divide.

The DUP Leader, Arlene Foster said;

I want to express my sincere condolences, both personally and on behalf of our party, to the McGuinness family upon hearing the news of the passing of Former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Today’s news will come as a shock to many people.

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.

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.
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. I know that he believed that the institutions were the basis for building stability.

We attended many joint announcements together and one that sticks in my mind is the opening of the Seamus Heaney Homeplace. He was a huge Heaney fan and I know he was particularly proud that the Executive was able to play a significant role in creating a lasting legacy to the poet he so much admired.

Martin faced his illness with courage and, after stepping away from the glare of the public spotlight I sincerely hope he got the chance to enjoy the things he loved.

My sympathy, thoughts and prayers are with the McGuinness family today and I pray that God will draw near to them and sustain them in the days ahead.”

SDLP Leader, Colum Eastwood remarked;
I want to express my deepest sympathies to Bernie, Martin’s constant companion and closest friend over the last forty years, as well as his children Grainne, Fionnuala, Fiachra and Emmet. The loss of Martin McGuinness is a significant moment in the history of this island but it is, first and foremost, a devastating loss to his family, friends and colleagues. Our thoughts are with them now.

“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.”

Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams;

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 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.

David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs