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Former Irish leaders lead tributes to peace builder McGuinness

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern described Martin McGuinnesss was a "good friend"
Gareth McKeown

SOME of the IRA's sternest critics in the Republic have admitted that Martin McGuinness went the extra mile to build peace in Northern Ireland.

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern described Sinn Féin leader as an extraordinary person, who was honest in his efforts and an upfront negotiator.

“He listened and he was able, I think, to arbitrate between different points of view," he told RTE Radio.

Mr Ahern said he could “totally” understand why Mr McGuinness joined the IRA in Derry at the height of the civil-rights movement and put his life on the line to pursue peace.

“I think Martin McGuinness would have been happier following Derry GAA club or Derry City or fly fishing in Donegal,” he said.

“He was a good person in my view. He moved from a very difficult past where he took a particular side and he was a good person to negotiate with and certainly I considered him as a good friend as we went through 25 years of discussions.”

John Bruton, who served as Taoiseach from 1994 to 1997 said that despite their “profound political differences” he always found Mr McGuinness “to be a very friendly person and easy to talk to”.

“The good and warm personal relationship he developed with Ian Paisley set a very good example. But it has yet to be followed by a genuine political reconciliation between the two communities they represented. It is sad that Martin will not be around to complete the important task he undertook."

"I hope his legacy will be full reconciliation in Northern Ireland, which has not yet taken place," he added.

Former President Mary McAleese, who visited Mr McGuinness shortly before his death, said he was a man "dedicated to the betterment of his community".

"I wanted to say thank you to him for his efforts that led to the construction of a future that our grandchildren will enjoy,” she told RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke.

"Look at the trajectory of his life, he was dedicated to the betterment of his community. He persuaded others that the best way forward was not through violence, but through politics."

Former Tánaiste and Labour leader Dick Spring was another to praise Mr McGuinness's peace building work.

"Martin's work in relation to peace and reconciliation has ensured we live in a progressive, peaceful and universally admired society, where we respect our differences and work together for all," he said.

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