Martin McGuinness: A career defined by his character

Tributes continue to be paid to the former Deputy First Leader upon the announcement of his retirement

Martin McGuinness: A career defined by his character

Martin McGuinness at Sinn Féin's think-in at the City North Hotel, Gormanstown in Meath | Image: RollingNews.ie

Former Deputy First Leader Martin McGuinness is continuing to receive support in the wake of his retirement announcement

Former Minister for Foreign Affairs for Fianna Fáil Dermot Ahern said on Newstalk Breakfast that he wasn't particularly shocked given Mr McGuinness' poor health in recent weeks.

Speaking about his work with Mr McGuinness over the years, Mr Ahern admitted he found himself asking "where did this man come from?" considering his past involvement with the IRA.

"On a one-to-one basis, he was probably one of the easiest people to deal with within Sinn Féin the organisation that we had to deal with", he said, describing him as 'personable' and 'down-to-earth'.

He credits Mr McGuinness with maintaining the institutions in Northern Ireland, saying he doesn't think they would have lasted as long but for McGuinness' warm personality.

"He was able to take some of the nonsense and the infantile way of going on that some of the DUP people had over the years", he said. 

"Don't say it, do it"

On Sinn Féin's Twitter, Gerry Adams has spoken on camera about Mr McGuinness.

"I met Martin McGuinness behind the barricades at Free Derry and we have been friends and comrades in all that time", he said.

President Adams attained for Mr McGuinness' can-do attitude and how the party plan on carrying it through the future.

"Don't say it, do it", he said. "That's what Martin's asking us to do."

"He made peace work"

Former Labour chief of staff Jonathan Powell discussed how Mr McGuinness managed to sway his opinion of him.

"He called me up and asked me to come to Derry incognito, and I did that", he said. "I spent three hours talking to him and I realised that you had to build a personal relationship with these guys if you were going to make any progress.

"Martin was much easier to make a personal relationship with than Gerry [Adams] was."

Mr Powell went on to explain that Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness worked together as 'good cop, bad cop', with Mr McGuinness assuming a "more humane" role.

"It struck me as like a marriage. They worked together very closely [...] Obviously that changed after Martin went into government and Gerry went to the south.

"I would stress that there are two parts to this - if Martin would come and see me alone, he would defer to Gerry Adams, whereas Gerry Adams, if he came alone he would always just make the decision. it was a partnership, but someone was always leading the dance."

Mr Powell added that Mr McGuinness' commitment to peace must be stressed  - without forgetting his record as a whole.

"As Ian Paisley would have said, 'believed in repent in sinners' [...] That's not to say he wasn't a hard-man in the IRA beforehand.

"The most remarkable thing for me was how he made peace work [...] The way he built that relationship with Ian Paisley was rather extraordinary."