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

Sinn Fein's former deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has died following a short illness.

Mr McGuinness, 66, died during the night at Derry's Altnagelvin Hospital with his family by his bedside.

Sinn Fein said it is "with deep regret and sadness that we have learnt of the death of our friend and comrade Martin McGuinness who passed away in Derry during the night. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him."

Mr McGuinness had requested privacy during his illness which saw him retire from front-line politics in January.

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.

The former IRA commander said he had intended to retire from politics in the summer but his illness meant he was unable to run in subsequent election.

Michelle O'Neill was selected by the party as the new Sinn Fein leader at Stormont.

Paying tribute, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams 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 re-unification of his country.  But above all he loved his family and the people of Derry and he was immensely proud of both," Mr Adams added.

"On behalf of republicans everywhere we extend our condolences to Bernie, Fiachra, Emmet, Fionnuala and Grainne, grandchildren and the extended McGuinness family."

A vigil will be held for Martin McGuinness on Tuesday night at 7.30pm at junction of the Glen Road and Falls Road at the former Andersonstown Barracks site.

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.

Mr McGuinness always acknowledged his IRA past, adding: “When people examine my life and my role in Irish politics they need to examine it in the round."

Read more:

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 in the 1990s.

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.

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.

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 Sinn Fein 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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