Bobby Storey 'one of the bravest people I knew', Gerry Adams says
Senior republican Bobby Storey was "loved and respected" and his death has come as a "huge political blow", former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has said.
Mr Adams released a personal tribute this morning to the former Sinn Féin chairman and ex-IRA prisoner following his death at the age of 64.
It is understood Mr Storey died at a hospital in England following lung transplant surgery. He had been ill for several years.
Mr Storey was a close ally of Mr Adams and was one of the republican movement's most influential figures.
A former IRA prisoner, who was alleged to have been the organisation's intelligence chief, Mr Storey spent more than 20 years in prison during the Troubles.
Mr Adams said the introduction of internment in August 1971 and the Bloody Sunday killings in Derry had a huge influence on Mr Storey.
"He was interned aged seventeen, one of the youngest internees, and in the decades that followed he spent over 20 years in prison," Mr Adams said.
The former Sinn Féin leader said Mr Storey was a key advocate of the peace process, particularly the party's move to support the PSNI.
"At countless republican meetings he spoke in favour of Sinn Féin’s peace strategy," he said.
"And when, following years of negotiations, the potential emerged for republicans to engage with the new policing dispensation Bobby played a leadership role in persuading others to grasp this new opportunity."
Mr Adams described Mr Storey, who he affectionately called 'Big Bobby', as "one of the bravest people I have ever had the honour to know".
He said Mr Storey was "also one of the funniest people I know" and described him as "kind, thoughtful, loyal and very giving".
Mr Adams said despite his illness, Mr Storey had helped to completely redesign the Sinn Féin book shop on the Falls Road.
"Big Bobby’s death is a huge political blow for republicans but is also a very personal loss for all of us who knew him," he said.
"There were tears shed across Ireland as comrades got news of his death.
"On behalf of Colette and myself and our family I extend my sincerest and deepest sympathies and solidarity to Teresa, their children and grandchildren, his brothers Seamus and Brian, his sister Geraldine, his extended family circle and his many friends."