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Martin McGuinness, ex-IRA leader turned politician, dies at 66
21 March 2017, 11:40 | Terri Saunders
Martin Mc Guinness said earlier this year 'My heart lies in the Bogside and with the people of the Bogside'
Martin McGuinness was an IRA commander who became friends with his most implacable enemy.
The steely-eyed and bluntly-spoken young man was a ruthless proponent of republican violence, which caused more than half of the 3,600 killings between 1969 and 1998, in opposition to British rule in Northern Ireland but became a senior member of Sinn Fein as the conflict neared its end.
"As President of Ireland, I wish to pay tribute to his enormous contribution to the advancement of peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland - a contribution which has rightly been recognised across all shades of opinion".
In a memorable gesture that would once have been unimaginable, he shook hands with Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to Belfast in 2012.
McGuinness was a commander in the IRA paramilitary group that fought for the province to leave Britain and join the Republic of Ireland to the south.
McGuinness had said his ill-health, which required a period of absence from his role, was not the reason he resigned but said he was quitting politics to try to recover.
Sinn Fein refused to appoint a replacement for McGuinness due to a row with the DUP.
That triggered local elections in which Sinn Fein made major gains against the pro-British DUP and the two parties are now deadlocked, meaning that the British government could impose direct rule of Northern Ireland from London.
Irish President Michal Higgins said: "The world of politics and the people across this island will miss the leadership he gave, shown most clearly during the hard times of the peace process".
McGuinness was born in 1950 in Londonderry in Northern Ireland, and as a teenager became involved in the civil rights movement.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams tweeted a song for his former colleague and a saying in Irish language which translates as: "Among heroes of Gael had a faithful soul".
His partnership with the DUP leader as deputy first minister at Stormont was a shining example of peacemaking - of turning swords into plowshares - and in 2009 he dubbed dissident republicans who killed a police officer as traitors to Ireland.
In a statement, DUP leader Arlene Foster expressed her sympathy to Mr McGuinness' family, "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".
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