Martin McGuinness, Irish Republican Army commander turned peacemaker, dies at 66

Martin McGuinness, Irish Republican Army commander turned peacemaker, dies at 66

Martin McGuinness, an Irish Republican Army commander turned peacemaker and former deputy leader of Northern Ireland, has died, his Sinn Féin party announced Tuesday. He was 66.

Sinn Féin said he died after a short illness. McGuinness was diagnosed with a rare heart disease in December.

He was a senior IRA figure during 1972’s Bloody Sunday, when British soldiers shot and killed 13 civilians during a peaceful civil rights march in Londonderry, the city known to Irish nationalists as Derry. He became Sinn Féin’s chief negotiator during the Northern Ireland peace process after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

“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,” said Irish President Michael D. Higgins, in a statement.

A song for Martin McGuinness. I measc Laochra na n-Gael go raibh a anam dílis.  via @youtube

Sinn Féin President Gerry 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 re-unification of his country.

“But above all he loved his family and the people of Derry and he was immensely proud of both.”

The Troubles, a bloody 30-year-conflict in Northern Ireland between mainly Catholic nationalists and republicans who wanted to become part of the Republic of Ireland and predominantly Protestants who wished to remain part of the United Kingdom, ended in the late 1990s with the creation of a power-sharing government.

Lingering animosities have sometimes flared up as walls continue to divide Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods.

Lord Tebbitt, a British politician, said McGuinness was “a coward who never atoned for his crimes” and that “there can be no forgiveness without a confession of sins,” ITV’s Good Morning Britain program reported.

Blistering attack on Martin McGuinness from Lord Tebbitt. ‘He was a coward who never atoned for his crimes.’ @GMB

‘There can be no forgiveness without a confession of sins’ – Lord Norman Tebbit speaks on Martin McGuinness

British Prime Minister Theresa May said her thoughts were with McGuinness’s family.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

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