Figure of the Army Irish Republic (IRA) and Sinn Féin, Martin McGuinness, died in the night from Monday to Tuesday at the age of 66, incarnated the image of war then peace in Northern Ireland .
The former paramilitary, who was imprisoned for transporting explosives, had turned into a politician who promotes the peace process, a path that attracts respect but also hatred.
Born May 2, 1950, James Martin Pacelli McGuinness grew up in the disinherited Catholic neighborhood of the Bogside in Derry. As the second child of a family of seven, he left school at the age of 15. The refusal of a local mechanic to take him as an apprentice, because he is a Catholic, will forge his political conscience. At 16, he became a butcher.
In 1968, he joined the Catholic Civil Rights Movement, then two years later the Sinn Féin party. During these years, he is perpetually adorned with his “guerrilla” beret at Che Guevara.
He joined the IRA, where he quickly became a senior manager.
McGuinness will recognize in 2001 – breaking the code of honor which imposes secrecy on its members – to have been the IRA’s number two in Derry during the events of “Bloody Sunday”, when 13 Republicans were killed by the British Army , On 30 January 1972.
If he managed to escape from the British prisons in Northern Ireland, he was imprisoned for six months in the Republic of Ireland in 1973 after being arrested with 113 kilos of explosive and nearly 5,000 ammunition in a car. During his trial, he declared himself “very, very proud” to be a member of the IRA and to fight against the “assassination of our people”.
The British press soon described him as “the most dangerous enemy of the Crown.” The Northern Irish Protestants nicknamed him “Godfather Sponsor”.
But behind the scenes, McGuinness is already playing intermediates with London. In 1972 he secretly met members of the British government. It is committed progressively in favor of the peace and is considered like one of the fathers of the republican aggiornamento.
Becoming number two of Sinn Féin, he works in the shadow of Gerry Adams.
Of all the secret dealings he played a leading role in snatching the 1994 and 1997 ceasefires from the IRA. That year he was elected to the Westminster Parliament in London but refused to sit on the IRA. Not to lend allegiance to the queen, whose sovereignty over Northern Ireland he did not recognize.
Negotiator of the Good Friday Agreement which will put an end to three decades of a conflict against the British authority which has caused more than 3,000 deaths, between 1999 and 2002 Minister of Education in a government of union with the Protestant Unionists.
He is also perceived as the one who convinced the IRA to free himself from his past by dismantling his arsenal in 2005.
In May 2007, he was appointed Deputy Prime Minister of his former enemy, Protestant Ian Paisley.
In June 2012, a highly symbolic gesture, he exchanged a handshake with Elizabeth II at a cultural event held in Northern Ireland on the occasion of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
“Good-bye and God be with you,” he declared in Gaelic before translating his words into English.
Previously, he had completed his redemption in the eyes of some by condemning in implacable terms the killings, in early 2009, of two soldiers and a policeman.
But the families of the victims of the IRA bombs are far from having forgiven him. “Let him roast in hell for eternity,” reacted Tuesday the former Conservative minister Norman Tebbit, whose wife paralyzed out of an attack in 1984.
After ten years as Deputy Prime Minister, McGuinness had resigned at the beginning of January. Already seriously ill, he had refused to run for office in the regional elections in March and announced his withdrawal from political life.
He was a father of four, a poet, a chess player and a fly fishing fan. He hoped, however, to continue “to be an ambassador for peace, unity and reconciliation.”
T he Sinn Féin explained that Martin McGuiness succumbed to a short illness.
Mr. McGuinness was suffering from amyloidosis, a rare disease which causes the deposition of proteins on several organs and which must be combated with chemotherapy treatments.