Martin McGuinness: Tributes paid to ‘passionate republican’

Gerry Adams, President Higgins and Enda Kenny praise contribution to peace process

Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Féin, has said he was "very, very sad" at the death of Martin McGuinness, the former IRA paramilitary turned politician who has died in Derry aged 66. Video: REUTERS

 

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has led tributes to former deputy first minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness, who has died aged 66.

Gerry Adams: “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,” Mr 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 reunification of his country. But above all he loved his family and the people of Derry and he was immensely proud of both,” he said.

“On behalf of republicans everywhere, we extend our condolences to Bernie, Fiachra, Emmet, Fionnuala and Grainne, grandchildren and the extended McGuinness family,” said Mr Adams.

“I measc laochra na nGael go raibh a anam dílis.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny: Mr Kenny said: “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 described Mr 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”.

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

President Michael D Higgins: Mr Higgins said: “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’s 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.

“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.”

Arlene Foster: The former DUP first minister offered her “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”.

She 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.

“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.

“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,” said Ms Foster.

“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.”

Peter Robinson: The former DUP leader and Northern Ireland first minister said no other republican could have done what Martin McGuinness did while sharing power.

He said Mr McGuinness’s influence will be greatly missed in the current talks on restoring devolved government to Belfast.

“We came together in that office after the heady euphoria of reaching agreement [between nationalists and unionists] had faded.

“The honeymoon was over and we had to work the hard yards of operating the system in a manner that would instil confidence and bring delivery.

“The business of governing a divided society and coping with the endless curved balls that politics here brings tested both of us.

“Yet while I knew his past, as he knew mine, we never doubted or gave up our shared commitment to create a new and better era in Northern Ireland politics.

“We had the best of personal relationships - keeping in touch even after my retirement and during his illness.”

Mr Robinson said Mr McGuinness was a very private family man who loved to be with them.

Micheál Martin: The Fianna Fáil leader said: “It represents a very sad moment in the shared history of the island of Ireland. More than most, Martin Mc Guinness embraced the peace process with a generosity of spirt 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 Rev Ian Paisley, was a striking illustration of this.

“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.

“He was deeply committed to reconciliation.

“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.

“I want to extend my deepest sympathies to his loving wife Bernie, his children Fiachra, Emmett, Fionnuala and Gráinne, to his extended family and to his friends and colleagues in the Sinn Féin party.

“Ar Dheis Dé go raibh a anam dhílis.”

Former president Mary McAleese: Ms McAleese, who recently visited Mr McGuinness, told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke: “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.

“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.

“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 said 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, adding that to be able to bridge gaps between both sides was one of his great characteristics.

British prime minister Theresa May: Ms May said Martin McGuinness “played a defining role in leading the republican movement away from violence”, adding: “In doing so, he made an essential and historic contribution to the extraordinary journey of Northern Ireland from conflict to peace.”

Brendan Howlin: The Labour leader said: “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”

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan: Mr 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 powersharing 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.”

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern: Mr Ahern, who was central to the Good Friday Agreement being signed in 1998, described Mr McGuinness as an extraordinary person who was honest in his efforts and an upfront negotiator.

“In negotiations when there is a lot at stake and it can’t be a winner takes all, Martin understood compromise,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“He listened and he was able, I think, to arbitrate between different points of view.”

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 was a good person to negotiate with and certainly I considered him as a good friend as we went through 25 years of discussions.”

Former taoiseach John Bruton: Mr Bruton said: “I am very sorry to hear of the death of Martin McGuinness at such a young age.

“Notwithstanding our profound political differences, I 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.”

Bill Clinton: The former US president said Martin McGuinness’s legacy should be an example for others to live by.

“When he decided to fight for peace, Martin was calm, courageous, and direct. And when he gave his word, that was as good as gold.”

He also said Mr McGuinness’s integrity and willingness to engage in principled compromise were invaluable in reaching the Good Friday Agreement.

“In the years that followed, he played an even more important role in ensuring that the peace would last - personally overseeing the arms decommissioning, joining the new government as the first education minister, and later serving as deputy first minister, and doing it all with a sense of humour and fairness that inspired both his friends and former foes.

“My lasting memory of him will be the pride he took in his efforts to improve disadvantaged schools in unionist and protestant communities.

“He believed in a shared future, and refused to live in the past, a lesson all of us who remain should learn and live by. May he rest in peace.”

Tony Blair: The former British prime minister said: “Once he became the peacemaker he became it wholeheartedly.”

Mr Blair was in Number 10 when the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998.

He said: “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.”

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan: Mr Ryan said: “I extend my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Martin McGuinness, and the Sinn Féin party.

“The leadership Martin showed throughout his life was remarkable. His ability to change, to bring people together, will be remembered.

“Martin was an individual who grew up at the heart of the Troubles. By the end of his career he had placed himself at the heart of the solutions. That will be his legacy.”

Northern Green Party leader Steven Agnew: Mr Agnew said: “The Martin McGuinness I knew was totally committed to our peace process. Not only that, he had the ability and determination to take others along with him on the peace and reconciliation journey.

“Northern Ireland politics will be poorer without Martin McGuinness and his leadership qualities.”

Archbishop Eamon Martin: The archbishop 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.

“Martin’s personal warmth and open, friendly personality were 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.

“Martin was ambitious for peace. He knew that peace was worth striving for and was within reach in his life-time.”

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire: Mr Brokenshire said: “I want to extend my sympathy and sincere condolences to the family of Martin McGuinness at this difficult time.

“Martin’s personal journey and the clear influence he had on others in the republican movement were instrumental in shaping political institutions in Northern Ireland founded on exclusively peaceful and democratic means.

“While not forgetting the past, no-one can doubt the essential role he played in helping to secure the powersharing arrangements and political progress in Northern Ireland.

“Martin’s commitment to reconciliation and understanding across communities was a significant factor.

“Whilst passionate and robust in his politics, on a personal level I always found Martin to be thoughtful and reflective and appreciated the personal consideration he showed.

“The importance of family and his home in Derry shone through.

“Martin will be remembered for his contribution to politics in Northern Ireland and particularly during his near 10 years as deputy first minister.”

PSNI chief constable George Hamilton: Mr Hamilton said: “I was saddened to hear of the death of former deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness. I extend the sympathies of the Police Service to his wife and family at this sad time.

“Our society suffered grievously throughout our troubled history, and many police officers and their families are among those who suffered.

“But Martin McGuinness believed in a better future for our community, and this is a vision shared by policing.

“Martin’s journey in life challenges all of us who care about the future; to be prepared to change; to demonstrate leadership, and to work to understand the world, not just from our own perspective, but from the perspectives of everyone in our community.”

David Trimble (in a letter written to Martin McGuinness on March 12th): “I think that even-tempered manner was characteristic of all your time in office, and we knew that it was never at the expense of your principles.”

Sinn Féin leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O’Neill: Ms O’Neill said: “Martin was truly a giant of Irish politics and was known and respected across the world.

“He led republicanism from the front for decades, striving for reunification and promoting peace and reconciliation and a genuine commitment to equality and respect.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood: Mr Eastwood said: “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.

Kyle Paisley (on Twitter): “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.”

Ian Paisley jnr: Mr Paisley said: “The respect Mr McGuinness afforded my father during their time as first and deputy first minister, and afterwards, was genuine.

“As a son who was very close to his father I could give respect to anyone who could give respect to my father and treat my father with respect.”

Former British prime minister John Major: Mr Major said: “For too many years, too many people lost their lives over the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

“Martin McGuinness realised that - if one wishes to secure long-term peace - negotiation must always prevail over violence. In a mixed legacy, that stands to his credit.

“Let that be his epitaph.”

Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly described Martin McGuinness as “a statesman and a peacekeeper”.

Mr Kelly said it was not an exaggeration to refer to him as “an Irish political giant”.

“His legacy is that he made a difference in people’s lives.

“He will be respected for what he did for the peace process,” Mr Kelly told RTÉ’s News at One.

“He knew that compromise was all part of the process.

“He is a huge loss. He was the chief negotiator in a number of agreements. He was instrumental in bringing republicans along which allowed the peace process to blossom.

“Even when he was rejected by opponents he reached out again.

“He had great personal charisma. He could warm up a room when he walked into it.”

George Mitchell: Speaking to RTÉ’s Six One News, the former US special envoy to Northern Ireland said: “He was a courageous leader who took his people from conflict to peace, from violence to democratic means . . . resolving differences through ballots, not bullets. For that he will be remembered.”

Richard E Neal: The congressman and co-chairman of the Friends of Ireland caucus in the US congress said: “It is with genuine sadness that I learned my great friend Martin McGuinness has passed away.

“I can say without hesitation that Martin was an individual who helped change the course of Irish history for the better.

“I worked side-by-side with him for more than two decades in the effort to bring peace, justice and reconciliation to the island of Ireland.

“He was a leader who took extraordinary personal risks for peace, to help build a shared future for the people he represented.

“And the conversation that is taking place on the island today about Irish unity is due in no small measure to the influence of Martin McGuiness.

“I am going to miss my friend and his love of poetry, fishing and the city of Derry.”

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl: “Martin McGuiness was an iconic figure who made the journey from conflict to peace, playing a key role in bringing about and maintaining the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement.

“He was a capable, hard-working and determined man who showed a willingness to compromise and reach out to others in a spirit of reconciliation.

“The flag above Leinster House will be flown at half-mast of the day of Martin McGuinness’s funeral.”

Additional reporting: PA