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

Republic of Ireland defender John O’Shea

Republic of Ireland defender John O’Shea

British Prime Minister Theresa May paid tribute on Tuesday to Martin McGuinness, the late former Irish Republican Army commander and deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, saying he had played a pivotal role in the province's path to peace.

The inquiry into Bloody Sunday, when 14 unarmed civil rights protesters were killed by British paratroopers in 1972, concluded that although McGuinness was "engaged in paramilitary activity" at the time and had probably been armed with a Thompson submachine gun on the day itself, there was insufficient evidence to make any finding other than they were "sure that he did not engage in any activity that provided any of the soldiers with any justification for opening fire". Unlike Gerry Adams, who came from a traditional hard-line republican family, Mr McGuinness showed little interest in politics before the start of the Troubles.

His death comes less than three months after he resigned as deputy first minister, sparking an election and threatening Northern Ireland's fragile power sharing arrangement.

He was sufficiently highly regarded to be one of the IRA delegation flown to London to talk to Willie Whitelaw, the first-ever Northern Ireland secretary.

A teetotal, non-smoker who enjoyed Gaelic football, cricket and fishing, he said he left the IRA in 1974.

Years later in May 2001, after McGuinness became a politician, he spoke of his membership of the IRA with a level of honesty that few of his Sinn Fein colleagues have matched and which has removed some of the toxicity from his past.

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He was elected Mid Ulster MP in 1997 and held the seat until he stepped down in December 2012.

By 2005 the Provisionals decommissioned arms after Mr McGuinness led negotiations - a process which started with the armed group vowing to volunteer not an ounce of explosives.

The pair struck up an unlikely "Chuckle Brothers" bonhomie heading the ministerial Executive.

Pictured at a reception in St. George's Hall, Windsor in 2014.

DUP leader Arlene Foster - who was First Minister at the time of Martin McGuinness's resignation, haa said her thoughts and prayers are with Mr McGuinness's wife and the family circle, and described him as having been pivotal in bringing the republican movement towards a position of using peaceful and democratic means.

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