Martin Mc Guinness Dies At The Age Of 66

Photo © Sinn Féin

Martin McGuinness has died at the age of 66.

He had stepped down as Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister in January and had been unwell for several months.


One of Martin McGuinness’s final public appearances came in January this year, when he resigned over the DUP leader’s handling of a botched green energy scheme.

He had been planning to step aside in May, 10 years after he entered government with Ian Paisley as joint leader of the executive,

But his health and the energy crisis had overtaken that time frame, and he confirmed he would not be seeking re-election to the Stormont Assembly and would be departing on health grounds.

A former member of the IRAs army council Martin McGuinness, made the transition to politics and served as deputy first minister for a decade.

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern says it was a brave move for Martin McGuinness to leave the IRA.

Following the ceasefire, he was appointed Sinn Féin’s chief negotiator in the talks which resulted in the Good Friday Agreement.

In 2007 he became Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister – eventually becoming good friends with unionist firebrand Ian Paisley, with the two getting so close they were dubbed the chuckle brothers.

A handshake between Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and Mr McGuinness was seen as one of the most symbolic acts of reconciliation- but he knew his journey from guns to government involved risk.

A statement from Sinn Fein confirmed this morning, he passed away in Derry overnight.

Tributes have been paid this morning from across the political spectrum.

President Michael D Higgins said he made an immense contribution to peace.

His great friend Gerry Adams described him as a passionate republican who worked tirelessly for peace.

While DUP leader Arlene Foster has said her thoughts and prayers are with Mr McGuinness’s family.

Statement from President Michael D. Higgins:

“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.”

Statement from Taoiseach Enda Kenny:

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.

Statement from 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.

Speaking this morning, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD 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.”

Statement from Arlene Foster MLA Leader, Democratic Unionist Party:

“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.”

Statement from SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood MLA:

Colum Eastwood has expressed his deepest sympathies to the family of Martin McGuinness following news of the former deputy First Minister’s passing. Mr Eastwood said that the Derry man’s remarkable journey from paramilitarism to peace was a hallmark of the transformative effect of the peace process.

He said, “I want to express my deepest sympathies to Bernie, Martin’s constant companion and closest friend over the last forty years, as well as his children Grainne, Fionnuala, Fiachra and Emmet. The loss of Martin McGuinness is a significant moment in the history of this island but it is, first and foremost, a devastating loss to his family, friends and colleagues. Our thoughts are with them now.

“It is appropriate that we reflect on Martin’s remarkable journey, made possible by men and women from all traditions across this island who forged a peace process from the fire of a terrible conflict.

“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.

“Those who knew him will know that his warm and affable nature undoubtedly made it easier to reach beyond his own political base. The generosity that he displayed in developing relationships with Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson demonstrated a rare gift that came as much from his personality as his politics. It is that gift which is needed in our politics at this moment.

“As a Derry MLA, as Mayor and as SDLP Leader, I always enjoyed a warm and respectful relationship with Martin McGuinness.

“This will be an immensely difficult time for Bernie and their children. On behalf of the SDLP, our thoughts are with them all.”

Statement from Minister Charlie Flanagan:

On learning of the death today of Martin McGuinness, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan T.D., 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.

Martin was deeply rooted in Derry, with great affection for its people, its places and its sporting traditions. But above all it was his family that was at the centre of Martin’s life. For Bernie, his children and grandchildren, Martin’s untimely loss is very difficult to bear and they are in all our thoughts at this very sad time.

Go raibh maith agat, a Mháirtín. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.”

Statement from Tony Blair:

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.”

Statement from British Prime Minister Theresa May:

“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.”

Statement from Brendan Howlin:

Labour Leader and spokesperson on Northern Ireland, Brendan Howlin has expressed his sympathy at the passing of Martin McGuinness.

“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”

Statement from Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin TD:

Fianna Fáil Leader, Micheál Martin has expressed his deepest sympathies on the very sad passing of the former Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness.

“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 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.

“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 Fein party.

“Ar Dheis Dé go raibh a anam dhílis,” concluded Martin.

Statement from the Archbishop of Armagh The Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland:

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.

Statement from ICTU:

Congress General Secretary Patricia King has expressed her deep sympathies to the family and friends of Martin McGuinness, following the death of the former Deputy First Minister.

“On behalf of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, I would like to express our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Martin McGuinness, following his untimely passing.

“He displayed great courage and commitment through his enormous contribution to the creation and maintenance of a durable peace and the structures on which it rests. Indeed, the creation of that peace would not have been possible without his contribution.

“In his role as Deputy First Minister, Mr McGuinness grasped the centrality of compromise, the value of negotiated settlement and the necessity to reach out to all communities on the island, on the basis of mutual tolerance and respect.” Ms King said.

Statement from the PSNI:

Chief Constable George Hamilton says “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”.