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McGuinness played 'immeasurable role' in bringing about peace - Jeremy Corbyn

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with Martin McGuinness. In the wake of his death Mr Corbyn described his friend as a man who "took risks for peace"
Gareth McKeown

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has praised Martin McGuinness for the "immeasurable role" he played in bringing about peace in Ireland.

Mr Corbyn said he was "very sad" to hear of the death of Mr McGuinness, a man he first met more than 30 years ago and spoke to only weeks ago.

The former deputy first minister was part of a Sinn Féin delegation invited to Westminster by Mr Corbyn in 1984 and again in 2015.

"I first met Martin in the 1980s, and remember discussing politics and trout fishing with him," he recalled, before paying tribute to the 66-year-old's "pivotal contribution" to peace.

"Martin McGuinness played an immeasurable role in bringing about peace in Ireland, after years as a key protagonist in the tragedy of the conflict," he said.

"In reaching out and befriending former opponents he showed the kind of leadership necessary to achieve real change in society. Martin McGuinness made an absolutely pivotal contribution, often at very difficult times in politics. When many said that insurmountable obstacles could not be overcome, Martin, through his actions, took risks for peace, demonstrating that peace could be achieved.

"Martin played an absolutely crucial role in bringing about the Good Friday Agreement and a peace process which, despite difficulties, remains an example throughout the world of what can be achieved when the will is there."

Mr Corbyn also highlighted the power sharing work of the "Chuckle Brothers" - Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley, which "epitomised what could be achieved".

"This approach helped positively transform the political situation in Ireland, north and south, and between Ireland and Britain."

"Martin McGuinness's legacy will be felt for many decades to come, and it is incumbent on all of us who support the immense progress which the peace process has brought about to ensure it continues to move forward. As we reflect on his role, the past twenty years have shown us that if there is leadership and the will on all sides, we can achieve change," he said.

Reflecting on their last conversation just weeks ago Mr Corbyn said that Martin McGuinness was in good spirits.

"I spoke to him only recently, before he went back into hospital. He was full of praise for the treatment he received from the NHS in Belfast and at the Royal Free Hospital in London. He was full of hope and optimism," he added.

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