Former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has died
Former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has died.
The Derry man died at Altnagelvin Hospital in the early hours of this morning.
The 66-year-old, one of the most prominent figures in Irish politics in recent decades, had been suffering from ill health for several months.
As a result of his illness, Mr McGuinness did not take part in the recent Stormont election which came about after he resigned as Deputy First Minister over the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal.
Sinn Fein enjoyed huge success at the election, almost overtaking the DUP as the largest political party in the North.
Many of the successful Sinn Fein candidates paid tribute to Mr McGuinness in their victory speeches.
His death will be a huge blow to Sinn Fein, given his prominence within Irish politics and on the worldwide stage for so many years.
However, Martin McGuinness was someone who divided opinion for the many years he was in the public eye.
To republicans, he was a hero and a peacemaker.
However, for others, he was someone they could not disassociate from his IRA background.
Mr McGuinness, who was born and grew up in the Bogside area of Derry, first came to prominence in the early 1970s when he was part of an IRA delegation which met British government officials in England.
He later admitted during his evidence at the Saville Inquiry that he was a member of the IRA during Bloody Sunday in 1972.
Mr McGuinness served a short jail sentence in the Republic in 1973 but told the Saville Inquiry that he left the IRA in 1974.
Alongside Gerry Adams, he went on to become the public face of Sinn Fein and was instrumental in a spilt within the party in 1983 which saw senior northern members take over control of the party from their southern counterparts.
In his role as a peacemaker, Mr McGuinness, who was married to Bernie and had two sons and two daughters, has been credited with playing a key role in steering the republican movement away from violence and down the political road.
He was Sinn Fein’s chief negotiator during the talks which led to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
In the subsequent power-sharing arrangements at Stormont he took on the role of Deputy First Minister, during which time he formed an unlikely close friendship with DUP leader Ian Paisley.
Mr McGuinness announced on January 19 that he was stepping back from frontline politics because of his illness.
That evening he spoke at a rally outside his home which had been organized in support of him and his family.
He told the crowd that it had been a difficult decision.
“I had a lot of thinking to do over the last couple of weeks,” he said.
“I had to think of Bernie, I had to think of my family. I had to think of the doctors in our health service and nurses who have been treating me over the course of the last six weeks.
“And I had to think of the people of Derry, the people of Ireland, the people in this constituency.
“I had to think of my colleagues within Sinn Fein and I had to be honest with all of them.
“But at the end of the day I had to make a decision and I had to be honest with myself.
“And the question I had to ask myself was I physically able and capable of fighting an intensive five/six week election in the current state that I am in and the answer to that was no.
“So the only fair thing to do was which I have done today was to make it clear that I won’t unfortunately, even though it breaks my heart, that I won’t again have an opportunity to ask the people of Foyle to support me in what will be a critical election to strength the Sinn Fein mandate.”
The exact details of the illness that Mr McGuinness was suffering from has not been made public.