Northern Ireland's former deputy first minister Martin McGuinness dies aged 66

Ian Silvera
Martin McGuinness

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness has died at the age of 66, it was announced on Tuesday (21 March). Northern Ireland's former deputy first minister suffered a short illness before passing away in Derry's Altnagelvin Hospital while surrounded by his family.

Martin McGuinness profile: From IRA chief to peacemaker and lynchpin of Northern Ireland Assembly

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He stood down from the top post in January 2017 in protest against the Democratic Unionist Party 's handling of an energy scandal that led to a snap election. McGuinness did not stand for re-election.

The former IRA leader turned peacemaker had been at the centre of the power-sharing government following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, becoming the deputy first minister in 2007.

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It is believed that the Irish republican had a rare genetic disease caused by abnormal protein - amyloid - in tissues and organs.

In confirming his death, his closest political ally and current Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams said: "Throughout his life, Martin showed great determination, dignity and humility and it was no different during his short illness.

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"He was a passionate republican who worked tirelessly for peace and reconciliation and for the reunification of his country."

Tributes and reactions to McGuinness' death

UK 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."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

"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."

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron

"Martin McGuinness, for all his past, became a statesman. One moment sticks with me, the remarkable – and unlikely – images of McGuinness' when he shook the hand of the Queen on her visit to Belfast in 2012. This single picture epitomised the changes in Northern Ireland.

"The historic handshake with the Queen in the quest for peace. This is something I, and millions of others, are thankful for. Peace in Northern Ireland is down, in part, to his leadership of the Republican community."

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair

"I came to know the Martin McGuiness who set aside that armed struggle in favour of making peace. There will be some who cannot forger 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."

Martin McGuinness

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