Belfast Telegraph

Martin McGuinness death: Books of condolence open at Stormont, Belfast City Hall and Guildhall as Assembly recalled

By Noel McAdam

The Northern Ireland Assembly is being recalled today as a mark of respect to Martin McGuinness.

A book of condolence for the former Deputy First Minister, who passed away in the early hours of yesterday morning, is to be opened in the great hall.

Books are also being opened at Belfast City Hall and the Guildhall in Londonderry.

MLAs will unite in tribute to Mr McGuinness, who served for most of the last decade.

It was made clear last night that the 90-minute session, announced by Speaker Robin Newton, will not amount to a "proper" sitting of the Assembly.

Afterwards party leaders will be the first to sign the book of condolence.

Meanwhile, negotiations to restore devolution continued at Stormont yesterday despite the passing of Mr McGuinness.

Several sources said meetings are likely to continue over the coming days - with the Assembly due to meet again on Monday to attempt to elect a First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

Secretary of State James Brokenshire said he remained "cautiously optimistic".

"Martin was very clear in his support for the political institutions. I think that is something we should firmly bear in mind in the days ahead," he said.

"The talks are continuing and there have been discussions that have been going on today and I remain cautiously positive about what can be achieved, but it still requires that sense of continued urgency and continued focus on the task in hand.

"We need to continue that sense of urgency with the statutory deadline of Monday, which we are working towards. I think that this is still firmly doable, we can see a return to the Executive and the re-establishment of devolved government here in Northern Ireland," Mr Brokenshire added.

"That's what I'm putting all my efforts to and I know all the political parties, notwithstanding today's news, are still very firmly engaged on that.

"We want to see politics getting on here in Northern Ireland, and that it delivers for all the people of Northern Ireland."

It has also emerged that Mr McGuinness may now posthumously receive a major international peace award in the next few weeks. Organisers of the Tipperary International Peace Awards made clear Mr McGuinness is still in the running.

There is a precedent for the winner to be awarded posthumously, therefore not ruling Martin McGuinness out.

Meanwhile, a small group of loyalists last night appeared to celebrate Mr McGuinness' death with a bonfire party. Fireworks were also lit in Sandy Row, and stones thrown at police vehicles.

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