22 Mar 2017

Ex-IRA leader Martin McGuinness' body carried home

9:23 am on 22 March 2017

The body of Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness has been returned to his Derry, Northern Ireland home.

no caption

Martin McGuinness is understood to have died of a rare heart condition. Photo: AFP

Hundreds of people accompanied the coffin, draped in the Irish flag, as it was carried through the Bogside area.

The ex-IRA leader turned politician died in Altnagelvin Hospital overnight aged 66. It is understood he had been suffering from a rare heart condition.

His death prompted the NI Assembly to be recalled on Wednesday. The funeral will be in Londonderry on Thursday.

Politicians and others have been giving their reaction to Mr McGuinness' death, as have those who lost loved ones or were injured in the IRA campaign.

Colin Parry, whose 12-year-old son, Tim, died in an IRA bomb in Warrington in 1993, said that although he did not forgive the IRA or Martin McGuinness, he found him a man who was "sincere in his desire for peace".

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

Prime Minister Theresa May said although she could never "condone the path he took in the earlier part of his life, Martin McGuinness ultimately played a defining role in leading the republican movement away from violence".

"In doing so, he made an essential and historic contribution to the extraordinary journey of Northern Ireland from conflict to peace," she added.

no caption

Martin McGuiness Photo: AFP

Mr McGuinness became deputy first minister in 2007, standing alongside Democratic Unionist Party leaders Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Arlene Foster.

A visibly ailing Mr McGuinness stood down from his post in January to protest against the DUP's handling of an energy scandal, in a move that triggered a snap election.

Former Conservative cabinet minister Lord Tebbit, who was injured and whose wife was paralysed by an IRA bomb in Brighton's Grand Hotel in 1984, described Mr McGuinness as "a coward".

"The reason he suddenly became a man of peace, was that he was desperately afraid that he was going to be arrested and charged with a number of murders," he said.

Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Enda Kenny said Mr McGuinness' death represented a "significant loss, not only to politics in Northern Ireland, but to the wider political landscape on this island and beyond".

DUP MP Nigel Dodds, who survived an IRA gun attack in Belfast in 1996 as he was visiting his sick child in hospital, said: "We can't forget his past... This will also be a difficult day for victims. But he did help move people forward when it comes to the peace process."

Born in 1950, Martin McGuinness grew up in Derry's Bogside, radicalised, he said, by discrimination and murder on the streets of his city.

He had a leading role in the IRA during a time when the paramilitary organisation was bombing his home city.

The shift to politics came slowly: Mr McGuinness was chief negotiator in the blossoming peace process and took on the post of education minister.

By 2007, he was Northern Ireland's deputy first minister standing alongside First Minister Ian Paisley. The two forged an unlikely alliance - but they were working together for the same goal.

He worked alongside DUP first minister Peter Robinson and, until January, was in office with Arlene Foster.

In recent years, he said: "My war is over. My job as a political leader is to prevent that war and I feel very passionate about it."

His funeral cortege will leave his home on Thursday at 1.20pm ahead of Requiem Mass at St Columba's Church Longtower at 2pm. He will be buried in the City Cemetery.