Peter Robinson: No other republican could have done what Martin McGuinness did

Ed Carty, Press Association

No other republican could have done what Martin McGuinness did while sharing power, former Northern Ireland first minister Peter Robinson has said.

The former DUP leader said the influence of the late Sinn Féin negotiator will be greatly missed in the current talks on restoring devolved government to Belfast.

Mr Robinson worked side-by-side with Mr McGuinness for seven years at the head of the Stormont Executive following the retirement of Reverend Ian Paisley.

"We came together in that office after the heady euphoria of reaching agreement had faded," he said.

"The honeymoon was over and we had to work the hard yards of operating the system in a manner that would instil confidence and bring delivery.

"The business of governing a divided society and coping with the endless curved balls that politics here brings tested both of us.

"Yet while I knew his past, as he knew mine, we never doubted or gave up our shared commitment to create a new and better era in Northern Ireland politics. We had the best of personal relationships - keeping in touch even after my retirement and during his illness.

"I do not believe that any other republican could have performed the role he did during this transition.

"In the difficult days, we presently face, his influence will be greatly missed."

Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with Martin McGuinness in 2012. Picture by Paul Faith

Mr Robinson said Mr McGuinness never attempted to airbrush any part of his life.

He described his former counterpart at Stormont as a very private family man who loved to be with them.

"Martin's life, like the politics of Northern Ireland, was multifaceted," Mr Robinson said.

"The immediate reaction to his passing has ranged from expressions of hurt from the victims of the IRA's campaign to the grief of those who were closest to him and his political outlook.

"Others have found his later years as a deal-maker and minister truly historic and deserving of merit. All these views are valid and form part of his life and legacy."

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