Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Spotlight
  2. Devolution
21 March 2017

Martin McGuinness, former militant and peacemaker, dies aged 66

By Julia Rampen

Martin McGuinness, until recently Northern Ireland’s deputy First Minister and an instrumental figure in the peace process, has died aged 66.

McGuinness, who had been battling a rare genetic disease, triggered an election when he resigned in January over a public spending scandal

His successor as Sinn Féin leader, Michelle O’Neill, tweeted: “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.”

Arlene Foster, the Democratic Unionist Party leader, whose behaviour as First Minister triggered McGuinness’ resignation, nevertheless released a short statement saying “my thoughts and prayers are with his wife”.

McGuinness, a lifelong republican, joined the IRA as a young man and rose to become a regional leader, before being jailed. After his release, he became heavily involved in Sinn Féin.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. Your new guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture each weekend - from the New Statesman. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

He became Sinn Féin’s chief negotiator in the Northern Irish peace process, and after the Good Friday Agreement was elected as a member of the Assembly (he was also elected as an MP but did not attend).

As a politician, McGuinness surprised commentators by getting on so well with his unionist counterpart, the firebrand preacher Ian Paisley, that the two were dubbed “The Chuckle Brothers”. When Paisley died in 2014, McGuinness fought back tears as he announced he had “lost a friend”.

When he resigned in January, Paisley’s son, Ian Paisley Jr, who is a politician in the DUP publicly thanked McGuinness.

After news of McGuinness’ death broke, politicians he worked with began to pay tribute. Former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain described McGuinness as “pivotal” in the peace process.

Ireland’s President Michael D Higgins released a statement saying “the people across this island will miss the leadership he gave”.

The death of a man who was both a militant and peacemaker is likely to divide public reaction, with many on social media using the occasion to share historic articles on IRA attacks.

Norman Tebbit, who was injured along with his wife in the IRA bombing of the Conservative party conference, declared: “There can be no forgiveness without confession of sins.” Claims that McGuinness ordered murders while in the IRA continued to surface as late as 2014.

However, Colin Parry, whose son died in an IRA attack in Warrington, said he was “a quiet man totally committed to the peace process”.

Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s spin doctor during the peace process, tweeted: “So sad Martin McGuinness has died. Some will never forgive his past but without him there would be no peace. The man I knew was a great guy.”