BELFAST (Reuters) - Martin McGuinness, the former Irish Republican Army commander who laid down his arms and turned peacemaker to help end Northern Ireland’s 30-year conflict, has died after a decade as deputy first minister of the British province.
Following is reaction to his death which was announced on Tuesday.
”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.”
”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.
“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.”
“We wouldn’t be where we are without him. Martin led the IRA when there was a war but he led the IRA into peace and he genuinely believed in reconciliation even when it made people uncomfortable.”
“Martin McGuinness never went to war, it came to his streets, it came to his city, it came to his community ... He was a great man in my opinion and he will be missed.”
”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.”
”He was an extraordinary man. Personally, he was a very nice person, a very kind person. He was always a good person to deal with, you always knew where he was. He was clear in his objective, honest in his efforts and he was a good person to negotiate with. Certainly I considered him a good friend as we went through years of discussions.
”Martin understood compromise. He wasn’t a guy who came in apologising for being there or for arguing his case but he listened and he was able to arbitrate between different points of view. He didn’t roll over but I think he had the ability to move forward and once he made up his mind, his word was his bond.
“I think Martin would have been happier fly fishing in Donegal (than joining the IRA). He was a great family man and I think that is what drove him into this.”
“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.”
SINN FEIN LEADER MICHELLE O‘NEILL ON TWITTER
“My heart is broke this morning. We have lost a legend, a giant of a man. I‘m very proud to say he was my friend and mentor.”
IRELAND‘S PRESIDENT MICHAEL HIGGINS
”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.
“His death leaves a gap that will be difficult to fill. May he rest in peace.”
BRITAIN‘S NORTHERN IRELAND MINISTER JAMES BROKENSHIRE:
”Martin’s personal journey and the clear influence he had on others in the Republican movement were instrumental in shaping political institutions in Northern Ireland founded on exclusively peaceful and democratic means.
”While not forgetting the past, no-one can doubt the essential role he played in helping to secure the power sharing arrangements and political progress in Northern Ireland. Martin’s commitment to reconciliation and understanding across communities was a significant factor.
“Whilst passionate and robust in his politics, on a personal level I always found Martin to be thoughtful and reflective and appreciated the personal consideration he showed. The importance of family and his home in Derry shone through.”
BRITISH FORMER CONSERVATIVE MINISTER NORMAN TEBBIT, WOUNDED BY AN IRA BOMB IN 1984 WHICH PARALYSED HIS WIFE, TOLD LBC RADIO:
”The world is a sweeter and cleaner place, isn’t it? He was a coward who knew that the IRA was defeated, that the IRA army council had been penetrated by British intelligence and they were beaten. He, coward as always, opted to try and get out of that by posing as a man of peace.
“He was a murderer, a multi-murderer. He became a man of peace ... because he knew that he was shortly to be arrested and charged with specifically murders which he had committed himself. The proper historic role that he should have played would have been to confess his sins, pray for forgiveness and make amends. He didn‘t.”
IAN PAISLEY JUNIOR, DUP MP AND SON OF FORMER FIRST MINISTER IAN PAISLEY, TOLD BBC:
”Martin McGuinness, certainly when I was growing up, was the godfather of the IRA and he was a man who struck terror quite literally into the hearts and into the lives of many, many people and that moved of course from being the godfather to being the man in government and that remarkable journey is something that is incredibly important.
“As a Christian, as someone who reflects on life, it’s not how you start your life that is important, but how you finish your life and I think that a lot of people will be thankful that Martin McGuinness finished his life a lot better than it could have been. It is one of huge mixed feelings because there will be people out there who will be hurt, and hurt forever, by the actions of the godfather but there will be people out there who have benefited forever by the actions of the man in government.”
Reporting by Padraic Halpin and Conor Humphries in Dublin and Michael Holden and Costas Pitas in London; editing by Estelle Shirbon