Tributes paid to Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness

He has died aged 66 after a short illness

Tributes paid to Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness

Martin McGuinness delivers a keynote address at the Royal Theatre Hotel in Castlebar, Co Mayo at Sinn Fein's Ard Fheis in 2013 | Image: RollingNews.ie

Tributes are being paid across the island of Ireland and beyond to the former Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness.

He died at the age of 66 after a short illness.

McGuinness resigned as Deputy First Minister in January after a decade in the power sharing role with the Democratic Unionists, which helped to end 30 years of conflict.

He was a former butcher who rose to become a commander in the IRA and promised to lead the republican movement to a united Ireland.

He helped to negotiate the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, secured IRA arms decommissioning in 2005 and then shared government with unionist leader Ian Paisley as deputy first minister.

In 2012, he was pictured shaking hands with and toasting Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in what he hoped would help define "a new relationship between Britain and Ireland and between the Irish people themselves".

Sinn Féin

The Sinn Féin party 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."

While Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said: "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.

"I measc laochra na nGael go raibh a anam dílis."

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said his passing is a very tough day for the party.

"Today we have lost in Martin McGuinness not alone a great Irish leader and patriot - but we have also lost a friend.

"It's fair to say that we are heartbroken.

"Martin was an inspirational Irish republican, a tireless worker for Ireland, for unity, for peace and for reconciliation.

"And it was my privilege to call him my friend - he will never be forgotten".

Enda Kenny

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: "I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Martin McGuinness today. His passing represents a significant loss, not only to politics in Northern Ireland but to the wider political landscape on this island and beyond.

"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.

"Martin was 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.

"I got to know Martin well in recent years, including through our working together in the North-South Ministerial Council.

"His commitment to securing enduring peace and prosperity for all of the people of Northern Ireland was unwavering throughout this time.

He strove to make Northern Ireland a better place for everyone, regardless of background or tradition.

"Above all, today is an especially sad day for Martin's family - his wife Bernie, and his children - and for the people of Derry, who held a special place in Martin's heart."

"My deepest sympathies are with all of them at this sad and difficult time."

Theresa May

British Prime Minister Theresa May said: "First and foremost, my thoughts are with the family of Martin McGuinness at this sad time.

"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. In doing so, he made an essential and historic contribution to the extraordinary journey of Northern Ireland from conflict to peace.

"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.

"He understood both its fragility and its precious significance and played a vital part in helping to find a way through many difficult moments.

"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 today."

Tony Blair

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "I am very sorry to learn of Martin's death and send his family my deep sympathy and condolences.

"I grew up watching and hearing about the Martin McGuinness who was a leading member of the IRA engaged in armed struggle.

"I came to know the Martin McGuinness who set aside that armed struggle in favour of making peace.

"There will be some who cannot forget the bitter legacy of the war. And for those who lost loved ones in it that is completely understandable.

"But for those of us able finally to bring about the Northern Ireland peace agreement, we know we could never have done it without Martin's leadership, courage and quiet insistence that the past should not define the future.

"After first meeting in Northern Ireland and then again shortly after in Downing Street - an historic meeting, between a British PM and the Republican leadership in the Cabinet room where so much Irish history had been made - he explained at length to me the causes of Republican grievance.

"I listened. We talked. And as the meeting went on he explained why he thought despite all the grievance there was a chance for peace.

"Over the years - through the arduous negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement - and for the years after it, I got to know Martin well.

"We met many, many times and as the trust grew between himself, my team, Gerry Adams and their team, so the discussions became increasingly open, frank and therefore productive.

"By the time that extraordinary day arrived in 2007 after almost a decade of hard work where we could witness the - to my generation - incredible sight of he and Ian Paisley sitting down together in government, the transition of Martin to reconciliator was complete.

"Whatever the past, the Martin I knew was a thoughtful, reflective and committed individual. Once he became the peace maker he became it wholeheartedly and with no shortage of determined opposition to those who wanted to carry on the war.

"I will remember him therefore with immense gratitude for the part he played in the peace process and with genuine affection for the man I came to know and admire for his contribution to peace."

Arlene Foster

While the former First Minister of Northern Ireland, 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."

Archbishop Eamon Martin

The Catholic Primate of All Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin said: "Like many people I was shocked before Christmas to hear about the serious illness of Martin McGuinness, and, despite our hopes and prayers for his recovery, today I am saddened to learn that he has died.

"My first thoughts are with his dear wife Bernie, his children, grandchildren, brothers and sister, and all his many friends and loved ones.

"I will remember Martin as someone who chose personally to leave behind the path of violence and to walk instead along the more challenging path of peace and reconciliation.

"As a leader he was courageous and took risks in order to bring others with him, convincing them that goals could be achieved by politics and persuasion.

"He channelled his many gifts into creating and sustaining the peace process of which he was one of the key architects.

"I have no doubt that Martin's faith and relationship with God guided him along this journey.

"He was a man of prayer and I am personally grateful for his good wishes and encouragement to me, as a fellow Derry man, in my own vocation.

"The story of conflict in Ireland has brought much pain and trauma and I thank God that in recent years we have preferred peace to the horror of violence and war.

"People like Martin McGuinness have made an immense contribution to sustaining peace by reaching out a hand of friendship and reconciliation and being prepared to model alternatives to dispute and division.

"Martin's personal warmth and open, friendly personality was able to melt away suspicion and help build trust with those coming from very different perspectives.

"Being grounded in love for his family, community and native city of Derry, he understood the importance of a peaceful, just and prosperous future for all."

Dr Richard Clarke

While the Church of Ireland's Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke said: "I express my sincere sympathy to Martin McGuinness's wife, family and friends on the news of his death.

"Martin McGuinness's adult life was in so many ways one of two very distinct halves, and most of us have great difficulty in connecting the two.

"That having been said (and it must be said), while recognising the hurt, fear and misery brought into hundreds of other lives in the first part of that life, we should also convey proper appreciation of the immense statesmanlike qualities that Martin McGuinness brought into the political life of Northern Ireland in recent years.

"He displayed both real courage and a genuine openness to those of different political viewpoints from his own."

Michael D Higgins

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina have also paid tribute.

"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.

"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.

"As a political colleague of many years, and having participated together in the presidential election campaign of 2011 that brought us all over Ireland, Sabina and I have appreciated both Martin McGuinness' warmth and his unfailing courtesy.

"Our paths have crossed many times in recent years at official events, including most recently at the GPO for the 1916 commemorations, as well as in our celebrations of ‘the beautiful game’, at Glentoran and in France at the European Championships.

"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."

Micheál Martin

Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin said: "It represents a very sad moment in the shared history of the island of Ireland. More than most Martin McGuinness embraced the Peace Process with a generosity of spirit that won people over.

"By 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.

"I first met Martin McGuinness during my time as Minister for Education when he was appointed as Minister for Education in the North in the first devolved power-sharing administration.

"He had a clear commitment to the disadvantaged and saw the pivotal role education can play in providing equality of opportunity.

"In particular during my time as Minister for Foreign Affairs, I worked very closely with Martin and others during the tough negotiations on the devolution of justice and policing powers.

"Despite the peace process going through a rocky period at that time, Martin retained the respect of all sides and never allowed the politics of the situation to affect his personal relationships."

Charlie Flanagan

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said: "It was with great sorrow I learnt of Martin’s passing. My deepest sympathies are with his wife Bernie and his family at this very sad time.

"Martin and I come from very different political traditions. However, in his embrace of the politics of peace, he made an immense personal contribution to building and consolidating peace on 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.

"In the past three years, I had the opportunity to work closely with Martin McGuinness and saw at first hand his many qualities.

"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.

"As deputy First Minister, Martin displayed great courage and leadership, especially in undertaking gestures of respect and reconciliation which reached across community lines. He did so despite being exposed to political criticism and personal risk.

"This legacy of leadership will no doubt inspire the next generation of leaders in Northern Ireland."

Brendan Howlin

Labour leader Brendan Howlin has expressed his sympathy, saying: "I am saddened to hear of the death of Martin McGuinness.

My thoughts are firstly with his wife Bernie, his family and his colleagues in Sinn Féin.

The role Martin played in bringing peace and reconciliation to our island will never be forgotten. His journey towards peace mirrored that of his party, and his contribution to that will be remembered.

"Over the coming days as we remember Martin's life we will appreciate the enormous road we have travelled on this island since the darkest days of the Troubles.

"Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam".