Belfast Telegraph

Martin McGuinness: Political friends and foes salute republican's role in peace process

By Noel McAdam

DUP leader Arlene Foster has said she has no doubt Martin McGuinness believed the Assembly and Executive were the basis for building stability in Northern Ireland.

Even though it was the former Deputy First Minister's decision to resign that collapsed Stormont and led to the recent election, Mrs Foster said her former power-sharing partner shared her "deep desire to see the devolved institutions working to achieve positive results for everyone".

Leading unionist reaction to the death of the former IRA second-in-command, Mrs Foster said: "History will record differing views and opinions on the role Martin McGuinness played throughout the recent and not so recent past - but history will also show that his contribution to the political and peace process was significant.

"Martin faced his illness with courage and, after stepping away from the glare of the public spotlight, I sincerely hope he got the chance to enjoy the things he loved."

His successor as Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill led tributes yesterday, referring to Mr McGuinness as her mentor and inspiration.

"Martin was truly a giant of Irish politics and was known and respected across the world. He led republicanism from the front for decades, striving for reunification and promoting peace and reconciliation and a genuine commitment to equality and respect.

"Growing up as a young republican I was inspired by Martin McGuinness, and I continue to be today.

"His leadership, grace and warm personality have transformed Irish politics for the better and his impact will be felt for many years to come."

And Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, who for many years left Mr McGuinness in day-to-day charge of affairs in Northern Ireland, said: "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."

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said it was a very challenging day for victims of the Troubles, but in his later years he accepted Mr McGuinness was on a journey to create change through politics, becoming a pivotal figure at Stormont.

"I found him a straight-dealing politician. History will reflect a complex life story," he said.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the loss of Mr McGuinness was a significant moment in the history of the island and agreed history would record Mr McGuinness's life as a journey "born in a tradition of violence but, in a testament to Martin's character, that arrived at his true calling in politics, people and the art of persuasion".

Former SDLP leader John Hume said: "Martin McGuinness left an indelible print on politics in Ireland. Our starting points on the approach to finding a solution to the divisions on this island were very different but there can be no doubt Martin was deeply committed to the agreed Ireland of the Good Friday Agreement and its power- sharing institutions."

Alliance leader Naomi Long said: "Whilst our politics were very different and his past is well-documented, the compromises he made, the leadership he demonstrated and his willingness to work with others despite those differences as part of the peace process helped secure the peace we all now enjoy."

But TUV leader Jim Allister, who said all grieving families deserved condolences, added: "In the case of Martin McGuinness he lived many more decades than most of his victims. Sadly, Mr McGuinness thought it appropriate not just to sanction and commit murder, but to take those dark secrets to his grave, denying truth and justice to many IRA victims. So, today my primary thoughts are with the many victims of the IRA who never reached the age of 66."

Paisley's widow extends her sympathies

Baroness Eileen Paisley paid tribute to Martin McGuinness, thanking him for his support after the death of husband the Rev Ian Paisley.

Baroness Paisley spoke of the close relationship he had forged with the Paisley family and compared him to the reformed biblical apostle Paul.

"My sympathy, of course, is with his wife Bernie and with his family because I have already been there and my family have been there and so we know how they're feeling," she said.

After her husband died in 2014, she spoke of Mr McGuinness' reaction.

"He was most supportive. When Ian was in hospital, Martin phoned me regularly, and when Ian died he was very sympathetic."

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