Former US president Bill Clinton praises Martin McGuinness

Bill Clinton with Martin McGuinness at the University of Ulster Magee campus in Londonderry in 2010. Picture by Paul Faith, PA Wire

FORMER US president Bill Clinton paid tribute to Martin McGuinness, saying his belief in a shared future is "a lesson all of us who remain should learn and live by".

Mr Clinton paid an important role in the lead-up to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, acting as a peace envoy and encouraging dialogue between both sides.

His first visit to the north came in November 1995, a year after the IRA's first ceasefire, during which he shook hands with Gerry Adams on the Falls Road.

The same year, Mr Clinton appointed US Senator George Mitchell as a special envoy to the north to help develop the negotiations, a move which many consider the single most important foreign policy decision of the Clinton administration.

In a statement, the former president stressed Martin McGuinness's role both before and after the historic peace accord.

"When he decided to fight for peace, Martin was calm, courageous, and direct. And when he gave his word, that was as good as gold," he said.

"Personally overseeing the arms decommissioning, joining the new government as the first education minister, and later serving as deputy first minister, and doing it all with a sense of humor and fairness that inspired both his friends and former foes."

Mr Clinton said his lasting memory of Martin McGuinness was his efforts to improve disadvantaged schools in unionist communities during his time as education minister.

"He believed in a shared future, and refused to live in the past, a lesson all of us who remain should learn and live by."

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