Martin McGuinness the former deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland has died

Martin McGuinness the former deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland has died

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, a key figure throughout five decades of Irish politics, has died.

Unlike his close Belfast associate, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, McGuinness never hid the fact that he had been a commander of the IRA - classed as a terrorist organization by the British, Irish and US governments.

McGuinness became Northern Ireland's deputy first minister in 2007 working alongside former adversary Paisley, who was first minister.

The 66-year-old former IRA commander resigned as deputy first minister of Northern Ireland and retired from politics in January, citing an unspecified illness.

"As President of Ireland, I wish to pay tribute to his huge contribution to the advancement of peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland - a contribution which has rightly been recognised across all shades of opinion".

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said on Tuesday: "Throughout his life Martin showed great determination, dignity and humility and it was no different during his short illness".

The former butcher from the Bogside in Derry, who was a man of action during the street fighting of the 1970s and once defended the spilling of copious amounts of blood in pursuit of his political Shangri La, ended up toasting the Queen at Windsor Castle and shaking her hand in a remarkable gesture of reconciliation with Britain after a long career of peace-making.

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In 2011, he unsuccessfully contested the Irish President Election, which was won by Michael D Higgins.

But the senior Sinn Fein member also helped negotiate the landmark Good Friday Agreement in 1998 for sharing power with one-time bitter foes the DUP.

In 1972, at the age of 21, he was second-in-command of the IRA in Derry at the time of Bloody Sunday, when 14 civil rights protesters were killed in the city by soldiers.

Although McGuinness escaped detention by the British in Northern Ireland, he was jailed in the Republic of Ireland in 1973 after being caught with 250 pounds (113 kilogrammes) of explosives and almost 5,000 rounds of ammunition in a auto.

Other accounts suggested he was made chief of staff of the organisation in 1978 and streamlined it into an urban guerrilla force based on small, tightly-controlled cells.

He is survived by his wife Bernie and four children.

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