Belfast Telegraph

Martin McGuinness went from one extreme to another: Jean McConville's son Michael

The son of Jean McConville has said Martin McGuinness "did an awful lot for Northern Ireland" saying he went from one extreme to the other.

Sinn Fein announced the passing of the former deputy First Minister following a short illness on Tuesday morning.

The 66-year-old died during the night at Derry's Altnagelvin Hospital with his family by his bedside.

He quit as deputy First Minister, after holding the position since 2007, in the wake of the RHI scandal which forced the snap Assembly election last week.

The veteran republican said he had intended to retire from politics in the summer.

Over the course of his political career Mr McGuinness transitioned from a former IRA commander to being the face of Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland.

He was second-in-command of the IRA in Derry in 1972 at the age of 21, a position he held at the time of Bloody Sunday, when 14 civil rights protesters were killed in the city by soldiers with the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment.

Mr McGuinness always acknowledged his IRA past.

Jean McConville was abducted, murdered and secretly buried by the IRA in Belfast in 1972.

Speaking to the BBC's Radio Four Today programme, her son Michael said: "I would be sad for his family, I don't like seeing anyone dieing, I certainly don't like seeing anyone murdered.

"On the other hand Martin McGuinness did try to do an awful lot for the Troubles in Northern Ireland. I think he tried his best, he went from one extreme to another."

Read more:

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness dies aged 66 - Irish republican colossus who shaped history 

Arlene Foster leads tributes to Martin McGuinness - Sinn Fein leader 'pivotal' in bringing peace in Northern Ireland 

Martin McGuinness: I have decided to make way for a new leader 

From IRA commander to political reconciler - the changing faces of Martin McGuinness

Mr McGuinness became Sinn Fein's chief negotiator in the peace talks that led to the Good Friday Agreement.

The 66-year-old was a key architect in delivering the peace deal and in recent years made further history as he met the Queen on a number of occasions.

The following year he was convicted by the Republic of Ireland's Special Criminal Court after being arrested near a car containing explosives and ammunition.

After his release, and another conviction in the Republic for IRA membership, he became increasingly prominent in Sinn Fein.

He was in indirect contact with British intelligence during the hunger strikes in the early 1980s, and again in the early 1990s.

In 1982 he was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont representing his home city of Derry. He was the second candidate elected after John Hume.

But as with all elected members of Sinn Fein and the SDLP, he did not take his seat.

He was elected to the Northern Ireland Forum in 1996 representing Foyle. Having contested Foyle unsuccessfully at the 1983, 1987 and 1992 Westminster elections, he became MP for Mid Ulster in 1997.

After the Good Friday Agreement was concluded, he was returned as a member of the Assembly for the same constituency, and nominated by his party for a ministerial position in the power-sharing executive where he served as education minister between 1999 and 2002.

His political career spanned numerous momentous occasions, from the first IRA ceasefire in 1994 to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, from the decommissioning of weapons in 2005 to power-sharing with the DUP two years later.

Mr McGuinness served as deputy First Minister with three DUP First Ministers - the late Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Arlene Foster, before leaving active politics in January.

He is survived by his wife Bernie, and their four children.

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