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Theresa May: Martin McGuinness moved Republican movement towards peace in Northern Ireland

Theresa May has said Martin McGuinness moved the republican movement towards peace.

The Prime Minister recognised Mr McGuinness' work in securing a number of significant political agreements.

Chuckle Brothers: The late Rev Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinn
Chuckle Brothers: The late Rev Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinn

Mrs May said: "Martin McGuinness served the people of Northern Ireland as deputy First Minister for nearly a decade. We recognise his work over the many years securing a number of significant political agreements.

"He played a key role in moving the Republican movement towards a position of using peaceful and democratic means. I want to send him best wishes for his retirement.

"We will all continue to work to make sure the people of Northern Ireland are able to live freely and in peace."

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams hailed him as a patriot and peacemaker as tributes flooded in from across the political spectrum.

The Sinn Fein president said they first met more than 45 years ago behind the barricades of Free Derry, a no-go zone for the British army, and had been friends and comrades since.

"I also want to thank Bernie (his wife) and the entire McGuinness family for the support they have given to Martin over many years and for allowing him to become the leader, the patriot, the peacemaker and poet that he is."

He said he had been shocked by Mr McGuinness's recent appearance.

"Thank God he is looking a lot better since then and responding well to the treatment he is receiving. However, he does need to take time out to get better for himself, for his family and for our struggle."

He added: "Martin has said he wants to come back and be part of the process to end partition, build reconciliation, unite our people and achieve Irish unity.

"Give him the space to get better and increase our efforts so that when he returns the process of change has advanced."

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said he was sorry the former deputy first minister would not be standing for another term at the Assembly.

He said: "I thank him on behalf of the Government for his work in securing a number of significant political agreements as well as his service as deputy first minister of Northern Ireland."

Nationalist SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Mr McGuinness had lived nearly his whole adult life in public.

"I hope he is now given the time and the opportunity in private to rest and regain his health.

"I was especially heartened to hear Martin's good spirits and his determination to overcome his recent illness."

He said it was telling that his Derry rival found his true calling in politics.

"He was the longest serving minister in our Executive and there is no doubting his commitment to the institutions that were established under the Good Friday Agreement.

File photo dated 16/03/88 of an injured man being aided by mourners, including Sinn Fein vice president Martin McGuinness (left), at Milltown Cemetery, Belfast, after a gun and bomb attack killed three and left four seriously injured, at the funerals of three IRA members killed in Gibraltar. David Jones/PA Wire
File photo dated 16/03/88 of an injured man being aided by mourners, including Sinn Fein vice president Martin McGuinness (left), at Milltown Cemetery, Belfast, after a gun and bomb attack killed three and left four seriously injured, at the funerals of three IRA members killed in Gibraltar. David Jones/PA Wire
President of Sinn Fein Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness at the funeral of Patrick Kelly . 1987
Martin McGuinness handcuffed to a policeman after being remanded at Special Criminal Court in Dublin, January 1973.
Martin McGuinness pictured in Derry with Rossville Flats in background and other street scenes. 11/11/85. 1148/85/bwc
PACEMAKER BELFAST Martin McGuinness (left) follows the coffin of IRA man Charles English in Derry 1984
Martin McGuinness in Derry's Bogside at a press conference. 1971
Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein, pictured leaving court in Belfast after charges against him involving IRA membership were dropped 1976.
File photo dated 26/02/96 of Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness speaking to the media after a meeting with Government officials at Castle Buildings, Stormont. PA
Rory McIlroy welcomed back home following his success at the Open Championship Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness
First and Deputy First Minister Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness at Stormont at the first British Irish Council meeting 2007.
1988 Anniversary of Internment rally
31/08/95 of Martin McGuinness, leading Sinn Fein negotiator in the peace process, attending a news conference in the House of Commons. PA
Funeral in West Belfast of the Gibraltar bombers; Mairead Farrell, Sean Savage and Danny McCann. Martin McGuinness with Michael Stone's gloves and bullets after the loyalist attacked the funeral 22/6/88
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PACEMAKER BELFAST AUGUST 1985 MARTIN McGUINNESS LEAVING CRUMLIN ROAD JAIL AFTER SERVING SENTENCE FOR FAILURE TO PAY FINES. 1042/85/BW
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PACEMAKER BELFAST AUGUST 1985 MARTIN McGUINNESS SINN FEIN LEADER IN DERRY 1006/85/BW
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File photo dated 05/11/03 of Martin McGuinness walking past a Bloody Sunday mural in the Bogside in Derry. PA
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File photo dated 31/08/95 of Martin McGuinness, leading Sinn Fein negotiator in the peace process, attending a news conference in the House of Commons.John Stillwell/PA Wire
File photo dated 08/03/07 of Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein standing beside a table where his votes are being counted after the Northern Ireland Assembly election in Ballymena, Co Antrim. Julien Behal/PA Wire
File photo dated 31/12/07 of Northern Ireland First Minister Ian Paisley (right) and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at the opening of Ireland's first IKEA store in Belfast. Paul Faith/PA Wire
File photo dated 15/03/2000 of Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams (left) and Martin McGuinness embracing at Dublin Airport. Chris Bacon/PA Wire
File photo dated 07/05/10 of Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (second right) of Sinn Fein celebrating after being returned as MP for Mid Ulster, at The Seven Towers Leisure Centre in Ballymena. Paul Faith/PA Wire
File photo dated 09/08/85 of Noraid leader Martin Galvin (right), banned from Northern Ireland by the Home Secretary, standing alongside Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, as the two men acted as pall-bearers at the Londonderry funeral of IRA man Charles English. PA Wire
File photo dated 04/08/05 of Prime Minister Tony Blair (left) meeting Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams (right) and chief negotiator Martin McGuinness in 10 Downing Street. Richard Pohle/PA Wire
File photo dated 11/12/97 of Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and his deputy Martin McGuinness (left) with party aides outside No10 Downing Street before meeting Prime Minister Tony Blair for peace talks. Adam Butler/PA Wire
File photo dated 19/10/98 of Martin McGuinness leaving 10 Downing St after a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
File photo dated 10/11/03 of Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein speaking at an election press conference in Belfast. Paul Faith/PA Wire
File photo dated 23/06/09 of Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness looking at a smashed window at the City Church in the University area of Belfast. PA
File photo dated 24/05/08 of Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams (right) and Martin McGuinness carrying the coffin of former senior IRA commander Brian Keenan in west Belfast. Paul Faith/PA Wire
File photo dated 09/08/96 of Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness addressing Nationalists outside the Guildhall in Serry after a march. PA
File photo dated 13/09/83 of Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness. PA Wire
File photo dated 11/05/87 of Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams and West Belfast MP Martin McGuinness (right) at the funeral of Patrick Kelly, 30, the reputed IRA commander in East Tyrone. PA Wire
File photo dated 15/03/2000 of Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams (left) and Martin McGuinness embracing at Dublin Airport. PA
File photo dated 04/11/03 of Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness outside the Guildhall in Derry after giving evidence to the Saville Inquiry, into the Bloody Sunday tribunal. PA
File photo dated 29/09/10 of former US President Bill Clinton (right)arriving at University of Ulster Magee Campus in Derry to meet First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (centre). Julien Behal/PA Wire
File photo dated 16/06/8 of Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (left) and First Minister Peter Robinson (centre) with US President George Bush at Stormont Castle in Belfast. PA Wire
File photo dated 27/08/95 of Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness addressing a Republican rally in Pomeroy, Co Tyrone. PA Wire
File photo dated 05/11/03 of Martin McGuinness walking past a Bloody Sunday mural in the Bogside in Londonderry. Paul Faith/PA Wire
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File photo dated 18/01/01 of Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein standing beside a sentry box outside Hillsborough Castle before a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair. PA
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File photo dated 06/06/08 of Prime Minister Gordon Brown (left) with Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuiness (right) in the garden at 10 Downing Street, London. PA
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File photo dated 23/06/09 of Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness looking at a smashed window at the City Church in the University area of Belfast. Paul Faith/PA Wire
Pacemaker Press International Belfast 16/7/2007. First and Deputy First Mnister Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness pictured today at Stormont at the British Irish Council meeting 2007 . Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
PACEMAKER PRESS BELFAST 10-03-2009: The First Minister Peter Robinson was joined by the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde at a press conference at Belfast Stormont Castle. They condemned the murdered policeman Constable Stephen Paul Carroll, 48, a married man with children from the Banbridge area of County Down Northren Ireland . PICTURE BY: ARTHUR ALLISON.
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Pacemaker Press 18.11/08 The First and Deputy First Ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness's at their joint press conference at Stormont today. The DUP and Sinn Féin have come to an agreement on the devolution of policing and justice which will bring a 152-day deadlock at Stormont to an end. The executive will meet on Thursday 20 November and on a weekly basis until business is up to date, the first and deputy first ministers said. Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
PACEMAKER PRESS BELFAST 17/7/2007 Taioseach Bertie Ahern  speaks to the press while First Minister Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness look on from behind  at the first  meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council since the assembly which took place in Armagh City.  The meeting, in Armagh, includes members of the executive and Taioseach Bertie Ahern and other Irish ministers. Picture Mark Pearce/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 4/6/2008. First Minister Ian Paisley, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, as they officially opened the new £37million Stena Line Terminal at Belfast Port today. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
File photo dated 29/09/10 of former US President Bill Clinton with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at the University of Ulster Magee campus in Derry. PA
Pacemaker Press 12/10/09 Secretary Of State of the US Hilary Clinton is greeted by First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness as she arrives at Stormont Castle during her visit Belfast Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 9/9/2011 Martin McGuinness addresses Sinn Fein's Ard Fheis at Belfast's Waterfront Conference Centre for a two day event. The Presbyterian minister from Derry, was invited to speak at the conference by Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness.. It was the first time a Presbyterian minister will have addressed the ard fheis Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press Belfast 9-05-2011: Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein pictured during a Press Conference in Belfast this afternoon, where the pair spoke of the parties success in last wekends election. Picture By: Arthur Allison.
Pacemaker Press 3/7/2012 First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness during the opening of the New Visitors centre at the Giants Causeway in Co Antrim Yesterday, The £18.5m building has taken 18 months to complete and includes exhibition spaces, a cafe and shops. Walks and trails around the site have also been upgraded, with the addition of a new accessible cliff-top walk for families and people with disabilities .PIcture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
PACEMAKER BELFAST 27/6/12 Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness watched by First minister Peter Robinson (centre) at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast. POOL PICTURE PA/PACEMAKER PRESS
Pacemaker Press 9/9/2011 The Reverend David Latimer is welcomed by Martin McGuinness for Sinn Feins Ard Fheis at Belfasts Waterfront Conference Centre for a two day event. The Presbyterian minister from Derry, was invited to speak at the conference by Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness.. It was the first time a Presbyterian minister will have addressed the ard fheis Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 3/7/2012 First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness wave to the visitors during the opening of the New Visitors centre at the Giants Causeway in Co Antrim Yesterday, The £18.5m building has taken 18 months to complete and includes exhibition spaces, a cafe and shops. Walks and trails around the site have also been upgraded, with the addition of a new accessible cliff-top walk for families and people with disabilities .PIcture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
PACEMAKER BELFAST 28/01/2012 - Power NI Dr McKenna Cup Final, Tyrone v Derry, at Armagh. Peter Robinson, accompanied by Martin McGuinness, attended the McKenna Cup final.
File photo dated 30/05/06 of Sinn Fein MP Martin McGuinness with party colleagues during a press conference at Stormont. PA
Martin McGuinness signs resignation letter.
Martin McGuinness at the Bishop's Gate Hotel in Derry, as the former Deputy First Minister announced that he is quitting elected politics to concentrate on recovering from serious health issues: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Martin McGuinness at the Bishop's Gate Hotel in Londonderry, as the former Deputy First Minister announced that he is quitting elected politics to concentrate on recovering from serious health issues. Niall Carson/PA Wire
Sinn Fein former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness pictured leaving Stormont Castle in east Belfast after he resigned. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
Martin McGuinness during an interview with the Press Association at the Bishop's Gate Hotel in Derry, as the former Deputy First Minister announced that he is quitting elected politics to concentrate on recovering from serious health issues. PA

"Perhaps most significantly, Martin McGuinness developed the ability to reach out beyond his own base and in recent years has acted generously to reach out the hand of friendship and reconciliation. That ability was best displayed in his relationships with Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson.

"It was a rare gift and came as much from his personality as it did from his politics. Sinn Fein will miss him."

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said he had been a major influence over the 10 years since the DUP decided to work with Sinn Fein in Stormont Castle.

"His decision to take up arms in the IRA and terrorise the people of Northern Ireland has left a legacy we are still struggling to come to terms with.

"That said he is clearly unwell and I wish for him and his family what I would wish for myself and mine."

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long recognised the degree to which he stretched himself and his constituency over recent years to move the political process forward.

"During that time he displayed significant moments of generosity, which were important in building relationships and securing the peace we enjoy," she said.

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From Belfast Telegraph