From Guns To Government: David Mellor Mourns Martin McGuinness
21 March, 2017, 11:42 | Author: Valerie Burke
Unlike his close Belfast associate, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, McGuinness never hid the fact that he had been a commander of the IRA - classed as a terrorist organization by the British, Irish and USA governments.
He also played a key role in forging the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement that largely ended the conflict.
In 2012, he was pictured shaking hands with and toasting the Queen in what he hoped would help define "a new relationship between Britain and Ireland and between the Irish people themselves".
That triggered local elections in which Sinn Fein made major gains against the pro-British DUP and the two parties are now deadlocked, meaning that the British government could impose direct rule of Northern Ireland from London.
When a power-sharing government was established in 2007, McGuinness was appointed deputy first minister, working closely with then first minister Ian Paisley, the firebrand Protestant preacher who led the staunchly pro-British DUP.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said on Tuesday: "Throughout his life Martin showed great determination, dignity and humility and it was no different during his short illness".
"The world of politics and the people across this island will miss the leadership he gave, shown most clearly during the hard 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".
DUP leader Arlene Foster, whom McGuinness blamed for the recent breakdown in relations, issued a brief statement saying McGuinness's death was a "shock" and she expressed her condolences to his family.
Martin McGuinness grew up in Derry's Bogside, radicalised by discrimination and murder on the streets of his city.
He became a member of the IRA and had risen to its second-in-command in Derry by the time of "Bloody Sunday", the notorious day on January 30, 1972, when British soldier shot dead 13 unarmed civil rights protesters.
He served prison time for IRA-related activities, but later became a peacemaker as he negotiated a deal with loyalists and the British government.
His partnership with the DUP leader as deputy first minister at Stormont was a shining example of peacemaking - of turning swords into plowshares - and in 2009 he dubbed dissident republicans who killed a police officer as traitors to Ireland.
Paisley's son Kyle tweeted that he was "very sorry to hear about the passing of Martin McGuinness".
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Born in Derry in 1950, he leaves the republican movement in Northern Ireland in a position of unparalleled political strength. He was forced to step down in January, a number of months before a planned retirement, because of an undisclosed illness.
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