The DUP Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Alderman Hilary McClintock led tributes locally following the death of veteran republican Martin McGuinness.
The former IRA leader and Deputy First Minister, who was understood to have been suffering from a rare heart condition, died on Tuesday, aged 66.
Alderman McClintock said: “As Mayor I want to take this opportunity to express my sincere condolences upon hearing the news of the passing of former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. Martin McGuinness was a towering figure in Northern Ireland in general and in the city of Londonderry in particular.
“Whilst there will continue to be a diverse range of opinions on Mr McGuinness’ contribution to society over his lifetime it is clear that he had a passion for the city and the wider North West area. In recent years his contribution helped build on the relative peace we now enjoy.
“As Mayor of the city and surrounding district I know that many people are today both in shock and deeply saddened by his passing. I want to extend, both personally, and on behalf of the council, my sympathy to Mr McGuinness’ wife Bernie and his family circle at this deeply traumatic time.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the McGuinness family today as they mourn the passing of a husband, father and a grandfather. I pray that they may find some comfort from the fact that God can draw near to them and sustain them in the days ahead.”
The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Ken Good also expressed condolences to the McGuinness family.
“There are many in this community who still find it difficult to come to terms with his past involvement in the IRA, and the pain inflicted by that organisation.
“However, in recent years, Martin McGuinness dedicated himself to constitutional politics and to the peace process. With considerable charisma and a willingness to reach out to others, he proved himself an adept and courageous political leader.
“He challenged his own community and others, taking undeniable risks for the greater good and developing relationships that would previously have been considered most unlikely.
“Ultimately, of course, his death will be felt most sorely by his wife, Bernie; his children, Grainne, Fionnuala, Fiachra and Emmett; his grandchildren; and his brothers and sister. I offer them my deep sympathy at this time.”
A member of a well-known family in the city, Mr McGuinness grew up in the Bogside and after leaving school worked as a butcher. But by the age of 21 he was second-in-command of the IRA in the city.
Security figures regarded him as a pivotal figure as the organisation embarked on a campaign of violence. At the height of the Troubles questions were raised about his knowledge of atrocities such as the Enniskillen Remembrance Day bombing and the use proxy devices in which hostages were forced to drive car bombs which were detonated before they could get away.
Foyle MLA Gary Middleton said it was important to consider victims at this time of “mixed emotions for many”.
The DUP representative said: “Some news commentators are putting Martin McGuinness’s life into perspective and reflecting in an honest manner, others are choosing to neglect his commanding role in the IRA. The many victims who suffered, the family members who continue to suffer and those of us who are angered by this suffering due to terrorism will find it difficult to listen to some of the views being put across today.
“My thoughts and prayers today are with the hundreds of families of those who had loved ones murdered at the hands of the IRA, many of which have no answers or closure. There should be no rewriting of the past. Lest we forget. As a Christian I hope that Martin McGuinness sought the Lord’s forgiveness and I offer my prayers to the family of those he has left behind.”
As Sinn Fein’s chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness steered the movement towards the peace process and surprised many by entering into power sharing with the DUP’s Ian Paisley and going on to shake hands with the Queen.
However, his last political act was to resign as Deputy First Minister due to the Renewable Heat Incentive controversy, triggering the collapse of the Assembly and the recent election.
Whilst alluding to his past many of the tributes from key figures in politics and wider society highlighted his part in the peace process.
Among those commenting on Mr McGuinness were Prime Minister Theresa May, her Irish counterpart Enda Kenny, Irish President Michael D Higgins, Secretary of State James Brokenshire and party leaders from across the political spectrum.
There were tributes too from The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Rt. Rev. Dr. Frank Sella; Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland Eamon Martin; Catholic Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown and Peter Lynas, Northern Ireland director of the Evangelical Alliance,
From the world of business, Mr McGuinness’s support was recognised by Invest NI, CBI and Londonderry Chamber of Commerce. The latter stated: “Martin McGuinness spoke at many Chamber of Commerce events and worked closely with consecutive presidents to help prioritise investment and economic development within the city and region.
“The Chamber is very appreciative of the hard work and commitment from Martin to the peace process and in enabling our society to move ahead. Martin McGuinness was very congenial in his engagements and even if there were different views expressed he was always willing to listen and he showed real leadership in moving our society away from conflict and will be very badly missed.”
Mr McGuinness will be buried tomorrow (Thursday) after requiem mass at 2pm in St Columba’s Long Tower Church.
A Book of Condolence in his memory has been opened at the Guildhall. Members of the public can also sign it online via the council website at – http://www.derrystrabane.com/Subsites/Mayor/Mayors-Book-of-Condolences/Martin-McGuinness