Former Northern Ireland deputy leader Martin McGuinness dies

Martin McGuinness was an IRA commander who became friends with his most implacable enemy.

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

"As President of Ireland, I wish to pay tribute to his enormous contribution to the advancement of peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland - a contribution which has rightly been recognised across all shades of opinion".

By 2007 Sinn Fein had pledged support for the police force and Ian Paisley, the fiery preacher of "never", was prepared as leader of the largest party to enter government with Sinn Fein.

The former IRA leader turned peacemaker worked at the heart of the power-sharing government following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

He did not join the IRA until after the British Army had been sent to Northern Ireland in August 1969 to restore order after a pitched battle between the RUC and people of Bogside.

McGuinness had resigned from politics in January, citing a serious illness and a breakdown in relations with the rival Democratic Unionist Party.

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".

The two parties are now deadlocked, meaning that the British government could impose direct rule of Northern Ireland from London within weeks.

In 2011, he unsuccessfully contested the Irish President Election, which was won by Michael D Higgins.

McGuinness was born in 1950 in Derry, on the province's northern coast, and grew up in the city when it was riven by sectarian bloodshed.

The inquiry into Bloody Sunday, when 14 unarmed civil rights protesters were killed by British paratroopers in 1972, concluded that although McGuinness was "engaged in paramilitary activity" at the time and had probably been armed with a Thompson submachine gun on the day itself, there was insufficient evidence to make any finding other than they were "sure that he did not engage in any activity that provided any of the soldiers with any justification for opening fire".

More recently, he served alongside first ministers Peter Robinson and then Arlene Foster until he quit in January over an energy policy scandal.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams tweeted a song for his former colleague and a saying in Irish language which translates as: "Among heroes of Gael had a faithful soul".

  • Leroy Wright