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James Martin Pacelli McGuinness ( ; born in Derrymarker on 23 May 1950) is an Irishmarker politician and the current deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland.

A Sinn Féin politician and former Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) leader, McGuinness is the MP for the Mid Ulster constituency. Like all Sinn Féin MPs, McGuinness practises abstentionism at Westminster. He is also a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for the same constituency. Following the St Andrews Agreement and the Assembly election in 2007, he became deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland with Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Ian Paisley as First Minister of Northern Ireland on 8 May 2007. He was re-appointed, with Peter Robinson as First Minister, on 5 June 2008. He served as Minister of Education in the Northern Ireland Executive between 1999 and 2002.

Provisional IRA activity

McGuinness joined the IRA around 1970 at the age of 20, after the Troubles broke out. By the start of 1972, at the age of 21, he was second-in-command of the IRA in Derry, a position he held at the time of Bloody Sunday. A claim was made at the Saville Inquiry that McGuinness was responsible for supplying detonators for nail bombs on Bloody Sunday where 14 civil rights marchers were killed by British soldiers in Derry. Paddy Ward claimed he was the leader of the Fianna, the youth wing of the IRA in January 1972. He claimed McGuinness, the second-in-command of the IRA in the city at the time, and another anonymous member gave him bomb parts on the morning of 30 January, the date planned for the civil rights march. He said his organisation intended to attack city-centre premises in Derry on the day when civilians were shot dead by British soldiers. In response McGuinness said the claims were "fantasy", while Gerry O’Hara, a Sinn Féin councillor in Derry stated that he and not Ward was the Fianna leader at the time.

McGuinness negotiated alongside Gerry Adams with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Willie Whitelaw, in 1972. He was convicted by the Republic of Ireland'smarker Special Criminal Court in 1973, after being caught with a car containing 250 lb (113 kg) of explosives and nearly 5,000 rounds of ammunition. He refused to recognize the court, and was sentenced to six months imprisonment. In the court he declared his membership of the Provisional Irish Republican Army without equivocation: 'We have fought against the killing of our people... I am a member of Óglaigh na hÉireann and very, very proud of it'.

After his release, and another conviction in the Republic for IRA membership, he became increasingly prominent in Sinn Féin, the political wing of the Republican Movement. He was in indirect contact with British intelligence during the hunger strikes in the early 1980s, and in the early 1990s. He was elected to a short-lived assembly at Stormontmarker in 1982, representing Londonderry. He was the second candidate elected after John Hume. As with all elected members of Sinn Féin and the SDLP, he did not take up his seat.He was subsequently banned from entering Great Britain under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

In August 1993, he was the subject of a two part special by the The Cook Report, a Central TV investigative documentary series presented by Roger Cook. It accused him of continuing involvement in IRA activity, of attending an interrogation and of encouraging Frank Hegarty, an informer, to return to Derry from a safe house in England. Hegarty's mother Rose appeared on the programme to tell of telephone calls to McGuinness and of Hegarty's subsequent murder. McGuinness denied her account and denounced the programme saying "I have never been in the IRA. I don't have any sway over the IRA".

In 2005, Michael McDowell, the Irish Tánaiste, claimed McGuinness, along with Gerry Adams and Martin Ferris, were members of the seven-man IRA Army Council. McGuinness denied the claims, saying he was no longer an IRA member.

Experienced "troubles" journalist Peter Taylor presented further apparent evidence of McGuinness's role in the IRA in his documentary Age of Terror, shown in April 2008. In his documentary, Taylor alleges that McGuinness was the head of the IRA's Northern Command which had advance knowledge of the IRA's 1987 Enniskillen bombingmarker which left 11 civilians dead.

Chief negotiator and Minister of Education

He became Sinn Féin's chief negotiator in the time leading to the Belfast Agreement. He was elected to the Northern Ireland Forum in 1996 representing Foyle. Having contested Foyle unsuccessfully at the 1983, 1987 and 1992 Westminster elections, he became MP for Mid Ulster in 1997, and after the Agreement was concluded, was returned as a member of the Assembly for the same constituency, and nominated by his party for a ministerial position in the power-sharing executive, where he became Minister of Education. One of his controversial acts as Minister of Education was his decision to scrap the 11-plus exam, which he himself had failed as a schoolchild. He was re-elected to the Westminster Parliament in 2001 and 2005, but along with the rest of his party has refused to take his seat there (see abstentionism).

In May 2003, transcripts of telephone calls between McGuinness and British officials including Mo Mowlam, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's Chief of Staff, were published in a biography of McGuinness entitled From Guns to Government. The tapes had been made by MI5marker and the authors of the book were arrested under the Official Secrets Act. The conversations showed an easy and friendly relationship between McGuinness and the British. He joked with Powell about Unionist MPs while Mowlam referred to him as "babe" and discussed her difficulties with Blair. In another transcript he praised Bill Clinton to Gerry Adams.

St Andrews Agreement

In the weeks following the St Andrews Agreement between Paisley and Adams, the four parties — the DUP, Sinn Féin, the UUP and the SDLP — indicated their choice of ministries in the Executive and nominated members to fill them. The Assembly met on 8 May 2007 and Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness were nominated as First Minister and Deputy First Minister. On 12 May the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle agreed to take up three places on the Policing Board, and nominated three MLAs to take them.

On 8 December 2007, while visiting President Bush in the White Housemarker with the Northern Ireland First Minister Ian Paisley, Martin McGuinness, the deputy First Minister, said to the press "Up until the 26 March this year, Ian Paisley and I never had a conversation about anything – not even about the weather – and now we have worked very closely together over the last seven months and there's been no angry words between us. ... This shows we are set for a new course."

Personal life

McGuinness married Bernadette Canning in 1974. They have four children, two girls and two boys. McGuinness is a fan of the Derry Gaelic football and hurling teams and played both sports when he was younger. He grew up just 50 yards from Celtic Parkmarker, the home of Derry GAA. His brother Tom played Gaelic football for Derry and is regarded as one of the county's best ever players. Among his honours are three Ulster Senior Football Championship medals, as well as Ulster Under 21 and All-Ireland Under 21 Championship medals.

McGuinness is also a fan of Derry City F.C. Another brother, Paul, played senior football for Derry City F.C., Finn Harps F. C. and Sligo Rovers F.C..

McGuinness is also a keen fisherman.

See also


  1. Ag cur Gaeilge ar ais i mbéal an phobail - Fórógra Shinn Féin do na Toghcháin WestminsterSinn Féin press release, released 22 April 2005.
  2. BBC Profile BBC News]
  3. "Robinson is new NI first minister", BBC News, 5 June 2008. Accessed 5 June 2008.
  4. McGuinness confirms IRA role BBC News website, 2 May 2001
  5. McGuinness is named as bomb runner by John Innes, The Scotsman, 21 October 2003
  6. Setting the Record Straight Sinn Féin website
  7. Martin McGuinness: From Guns to Government Liam Clarke and Kathryn Johnston, ISBN 1-84018-725-5
  8. Adams and McGuinness named as IRA leaders Daily Telegraph 21 February 2005
  9. Age of Terror, BBC, 21 April 2008
  10. McGuinness: Let's work together BBC News website 4 December 1999
  11. Martin McGuinness Wiretap Transcripts
  12. Staff. Paisley and McGuinness in US trip, BBC 3 December 2007, (Reference for deputy First Minister)
  13. Martina Purdy 'Charming' ministers woo president BBC, 8 December 2007 (Reference for the quote)
  14. Campbell, Denis. " My team - Derry City: An interview with Martin McGuinness", The Guardian, 8 April 2001. Retrieved on 8 May 2007

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