Martin McGuinnesswas a "coward" who never confessed his sins or atoned for his crimes, the Conservative peer Norman Tebbit has said.
Mr McGuinness, the former deputy first minister of Northern Ireland and one-time Provisional IRA commander, died this morning at the age of 66 following a serious illness.
Responding to the news, Lord Tebbit, who served in Margaret Thatcher's cabinet, said "the world is now a sweeter and cleaner place" in an interview on ITV's Good Morning Britain.
Blistering attack on Martin McGuinness from Lord Tebbitt. 'He was a coward who never atoned for his crimes.' @GMB— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) March 21, 2017
His comments came as Tony Blair said people could "draw inspiration" from Mr McGuinness. The former Prime Minister worked closely with Mr McGuinness to bring about the Good Friday agreement in 1998.
"I have constantly to explain to my children's generation that what they take for granted, back in the 1970s and 1980s was extraordinary," he told BBC Radio 4.
"Whatever the past of Martin McGuinness, I don't think it's inappropriate, in fact I think it's absolutely right today at this moment of his passing, to remember what he did for peace, what he did for the island of Ireland in resolving one of the great conflicts in the world."
Mr Blair added: "People are reminded not of things are today but how they used to be... when people are looking back on his life they are also drawing from it some inspiration to keep the future peaceful and to remove those vestiges of sectarianism that are also there".
Lord Tebbit was in Brighton's Grand Hotel when the IRA bombed the building during the Conservative Party Conference in 1984 and killed five people. Lord Tebbit's wife Margaret was seriously injured during the attack.
But Lord Tebbit told ITV presenters Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid his views were not skewed by his personal experiences of the attack.
He explained that he had visited Northern Ireland a number of times prior to the IRA bombing while working as private secretary to Robin Chichester-Clark, the MP for Londonderry.
"It's not merely these creatures [the Brighton bombers] crippled my wife, but they also murdered five of my friends. I only hope that his death will help to bring some sort of closure to those families and friends of whose murder he's accomplished," he told Good Morning Britain.
Discussing the peace process that Mr McGuinness was instrumental to, Lord Tebbit said: "You might just as well say that if Himmler had succeeded Hitler and wiped out the Jews it would have removed the problem and there could have been peace in Europe."
He added: "He was a coward". Lord Tebbit also said he believed Mr McGuinness' transformation to "a man of peace" was because he feared being arrested and charged with a "number of murders which he had personally committed".
Arguing that while it was possible to leave violence behind, Lord Tebbit said that a person must first "confess his sins and to seek atonement".
'A passionate republican who worked tirelessly for peace': Reaction to his death
Prime Minister Theresa May said Mr McGuinness "played a defining role in leading the Republican movement away from violence". She said in a statement:
“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.”
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams paid tribute to his lifelong friend, saying: "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 reunification 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."
Mr Adams posted Irish folk singer Luke Kelly's Song for Ireland along with the tweet "A song for Martin McGuinness. I measc Laochra na n-Gael go raibh a anam dilis", which translates as "Among heroes of Gael he had a faithful soul":
Michael D Higgins, President of Ireland, led tributes from the Republic, saying Mr McGuinness's death leaves a gap that will be hard to fill.
"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," he said.
Mr Higgins said Mr McGuinness made an immense contribution to peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
Statement by President Michael D. Higgins on the death of Martin McGuinness: https://t.co/B73cWUxL37— President of Ireland (@PresidentIRL) March 21, 2017
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, said Mr McGuinness "played a huge role in bringing about peace in Northern Ireland":
Martin McGuinness played a huge role in bringing about peace in Northern Ireland. He was a great family man and my thoughts are with them— Jeremy Corbyn MP (@jeremycorbyn) March 21, 2017
Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he was "deeply saddened" to hear of the death of Mr McGuinness. He said:
"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.