McGuinness' coffin carried through streets

"Martin McGuinness played a huge role in bringing about peace in Northern Ireland".

Martin McGuinness, the ex-deputy first minister of Northern Ireland and former IRA commander, has died aged 66, Sky News reports.

Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Enda Kenny said Mr McGuinness' death represented a "significant loss, not only to politics in Northern Ireland, but to the wider political landscape on this island and beyond". For the families of those who have lost loved ones in terrorist attacks, the trauma can be long lasting, and the when the events appear in the news again, the question is always asked about forgiveness.

Crowds walk with coffin in Derry after death of ex-IRA Commander Martin McGuinnessWhere is St Columba's Chapel in Derry?

Ian Paisley Jnr, who as a junior minister worked alongside his father and the Sinn Fein veteran during their time jointly leading the Stormont executive, said he had gone from viewing Mr McGuinness as the "godfather of the IRA" to considering him a personal friend. "Not only did Martin come to believe that peace must prevail, he committed himself to working tirelessly to that end".

Norman Tebbit was buried beneath the rubble of the Grand Hotel in Brighton when the IRA bombed the Conservative Party Conference in 1984 in an audacious attempt to assassinate then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

McGuinness' transformation into a peacemaker was remarkable.

"A man that has done so much for Irish people and Irish people's freedom right to the very end".

In his position as deputy first minister, McGuinness shook hands with the queen, whose authority in Northern Ireland he does not recognise, during her visit there in 2012.

It was a odd, limbo period in Northern Irish politics. The funeral will be in Londonderry on Thursday. But by the age of 21 he was second-in-command of the IRA in the city.

McGuinness had not been an activist before the Battle of the Bogside. The BBC filmed him walking through the Bogside discussing how the IRA command structure worked and stressing his concern to minimize civilian casualties, an early sign of public relations savvy.

Historians and security analysts agree that McGuinness was promoted to the IRA's ruling army council following his November 1974 parole from prison and would have overseen numerous group's most spectacular and divisive attacks.

His central role in the IRA command was underscored when Britain in 1990 opened secret dialogue with the underground group. But it would take over a decade - and hundreds of deaths - before the peace talks that led to the Good Friday Agreement began. McGuinness served as the lead liaison with disarmament officials.

With his curly reddish hair and broad bare forehead, he looked more like the singer Art Garfunkel than the cold-blooded Irish Republican Army leader that many Protestants saw.

The pair got along so well they were dubbed "the Chuckle Brothers", a previously unthinkable scenario. "I will remember him therefore with vast 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".

"I think the Christian view in life is how a person's journey started is of course important, but it is how it finishes which is actually more important", he said.

McGuinness maintained more businesslike relations with Paisley's frosty successor, Peter Robinson. Irish President Michael Higgins said in a statement that McGuinness's passing left a gap that would be "difficult to fill". The squabbling parties have just days to resurrect the power-sharing government.

McGuinness stood down from his post in January in protest against the DUP's handling of an energy scandal, in a move that triggered a snap election. "We have a historic chance now to bring lasting peace to Ireland and we have to do all in our power to seize it".

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

"I want to extend, both personally, and on behalf of the council, my sympathy to Mr McGuinness' wife Bernie and his family circle at this deeply traumatic time".

  • Joanne Flowers