Former First Minister Arlene Foster, who is in Derry this afternoon to attend his funeral, has commended Martin McGuinness for his courage and role in peace building, and offered prayers for his family as they come to terms with his loss.
Speaking after news emerged the 66-year-old former Deputy First Minister had passed away at Altnagelvin Hospital on Tuesday morning, the DUP leader expressed her condolences, both personally and on behalf of her party, to Mr McGuinness’ family.
“First and foremost, Martin McGuinness was a much loved husband, father and grandfather,” said Mrs Foster. “My thoughts and prayers are with his wife and the family circle at this very painful time of grief and loss.”
She added: “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.
“He served the people of Northern Ireland as deputy first minister for nearly a decade and was pivotal in bringing the republican movement towards a position of using peaceful and democratic means.
“In recent years his contribution helped build the relative peace we now enjoy. While our differing backgrounds and life experiences inevitably meant there was much to separate us, we shared a deep desire to see the devolved institutions working to achieve positive results for everyone. I know that he believed that the institutions were the basis for building stability.”
Mrs Foster then recalled her personal experience of the man himself: “We attended many joint announcements together and one that sticks in my mind is the opening of the Seamus Heaney Homeplace.
“He was a huge Heaney fan and I know he was particularly proud that the Executive was able to play a significant role in creating a lasting legacy to the poet he so much admired.”
She concluded: “Martin faced his illness with courage and, after stepping away from the glare of the public spotlight I sincerely hope he got the chance to enjoy the things he loved.
“My sympathy, thoughts and prayers are with the McGuinness family today and I pray that God will draw near to them and sustain them in the days ahead.”
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