Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness dies aged 66

Former Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble wrote to Martin McGuinness after learning of his illness to tell him of his appreciation for his peace process work and how many would feel "greater optimism" if he was "at the helm" in the current political crisis.

But he earned widespread respect across Britain and Ireland by embracing his bitterest rivals to cement the 1998 peace deal and allow Northern Ireland to slowly return to normality.

Former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern says McGuinness "made a journey, if not without historical precedent, then certainly without equal in modern Ireland".

Once he chose to make the change to pursuing democracy - and I believe he did so some years before New Labour came on the scene - I think he genuinely made the change.

McGuinness's reputation as a physical-force republican was thought to have helped secure IRA members' backing for a switch to electoral politics and a ceasefire in 1994.

Following the death of Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness, unionist leaders have begun to comment on his passing.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, left, stands with Martin McGuinness at the funeral of an Irish Republican Army commander in Dungannon, Northern Ireland, in May 1987.

About 3,500 people were killed during the Troubles, a conflict between Catholic Irish nationalists, who wanted to join the Republic of Ireland, and Protestants who wished to remain part of the United Kingdom.

There is no doubt that he was a significant figure in the peace process.

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"He became somebody absolutely indispensable in getting Northern Ireland from the horror and terror of the past into a new future of peace and hope".

"McGuinness had serious questions to answer regarding the Claudy bombing and Enniskillen bombing where many innocent civilians were murdered".

McGuinness, 66, had been diagnosed with a rare heart disease in December.

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said Mr McGuinness rose above prejudice.

Shortly after his retirement, the party achieved a major electoral breakthrough in elections to the regional assembly, coming within one seat of the Democratic Unionist Party and depriving the pro-British political camp of an overall majority for the first time since the partition of Ireland in 1921.

DUP leader Arlene Foster, whom McGuinness blamed for the recent breakdown in relations, issued a brief statement saying McGuinness's death was a "shock" and she expressed her condolences to his family.

Some were less forgiving.

Paying tribute this morning, Donegal Senator Padraig Mac Lochlainn said Martin Mc Guinness was Ireland's Nelson Mandela, a man who led by example and was intensele committed to peace.

Julie Hambleton said relatives of numerous IRA's victims were still waiting for "truth and justice", following his death. "Some will never forgive his past but without him there would be no peace", he wrote on Twitter.


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