Always at the side of Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness has been one of Sinn Fein’s key negotiators over the past 35 years. He’s also admitted that he used to be an IRA commander. He confirmed to an inquiry that he was the second in command of what was known as the “Free Derry” movement of the Provisional IRA back in 1972. He was 21 at the time of Bloody Sunday, when British troops shot and killed 13 marchers.
However, the man once described by unionist leaders as the “IRA godfather of godfathers” also went on to become one of the main negotiators with the British government. In 1997, during the 25th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, he spoke about how he believed peace could be achieved.
“I think all of us have to recognise that dialogue is the key to progress. I’m absolutely passionate about attempting to get a second IRA-cessation. Get another cessation of the loyalists but I believe most important of all we need to have a cessation from the British government to its conflict with the nationalists community which has lasted since the foundation of the Northern state.”
McGuinness was the chief Sinn Fein negotiator for the Good Friday Agreement signed in April, 1998.
When IRA disarmament began in 2001, he was also the one who negotiated with the Canadian general who was brought in to oversee the process.
In 1999, McGuinness became the Education Minister in a newly-elected Northern Ireland Assembly, which collapsed in 2002. At the age of 57, if everything goes as London and Dublin hope, McGuinness can expect to maintain a leading role in the new political setup in the province.