Martin McGuinness

Martin McGuinness
Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland
Assumed office
8 May 2007
Absent: 20 September 2011 – 31 October 2011
Serving with Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson, Arlene Foster
Preceded by Mark Durkan
Minister of Education
In office
2 December 1999  14 October 2002
First Minister David Trimble
deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon
Mark Durkan
Preceded by Office created
Succeeded by Caitríona Ruane
Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly
for Mid Ulster
Assumed office
25 June 1998
Preceded by Office created
Succeeded by Linda Dillon
Member of Parliament
for Mid Ulster
In office
1 May 1997  2 January 2013
Preceded by William McCrea
Succeeded by Francie Molloy
Majority 15,363 (37.6%)
Personal details
Born James Martin Pacelli McGuinness
(1950-05-23) 23 May 1950
Derry, Northern Ireland
Citizenship Ireland
Political party Sinn Féin
Spouse(s) Bernadette Canning (m. 1974)
Children 4
Religion Roman Catholicism

James Martin Pacelli McGuinness (Irish: Séamus Máirtín Pacelli Mag Aonghusa;[1] born 23 May 1950) is an Irish republican Sinn Féin politician who has been the deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland since 2007.[2] He was also Sinn Féin's unsuccessful candidate for President of Ireland in the 2011 election.[3][4][5]

A former Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) leader, McGuinness was the MP for Mid Ulster from 1997 until his resignation in 2013.[6][7] Like all Sinn Féin MPs, McGuinness practised abstentionism in relation to the Westminster Parliament. Following the St Andrews Agreement and the Assembly election in 2007, he became deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland on 8 May 2007, with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Ian Paisley becoming First Minister. On 5 June 2008 he was re-appointed as deputy First Minister to serve alongside Peter Robinson, who succeeded Paisley as First Minister.[8] McGuinness previously served as Minister of Education in the Northern Ireland Executive between 1999 and 2002.

Provisional IRA activity

McGuinness has acknowledged that he is a former IRA member but claims that he left the IRA in 1974.[9] He originally joined the Official IRA, unaware of the split at the December 1969 Army Convention, switching to the Provisional IRA soon after. 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, when 14 civil rights protesters were killed in the city by soldiers of the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment.[10][11]

During the Saville Inquiry into the events of that day, Paddy Ward claimed to have been the leader of the Fianna, the youth wing of the IRA at the time of Bloody Sunday. He claimed that McGuinness and another anonymous IRA member gave him bomb parts that morning. He said that his organisation intended to attack city centre premises in Derry on the same day. In response, McGuinness said the claims were "fantasy", while Gearóid Ó hEára (formerly Gerry O'Hara), a Derry Sinn Féin councillor, stated that he and not Ward was the Fianna leader at the time.[12]

The inquiry concluded that, although McGuinness was "engaged in paramilitary activity" at the time of Bloody Sunday and had probably been armed with a Thompson submachine gun, there was insufficient evidence to make any finding other than they were "sure that he did not engage in any activity that provided any of the soldiers with any justification for opening fire".[13]

McGuinness negotiated alongside Gerry Adams with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Willie Whitelaw, in 1972. In 1973, he was convicted by the Republic of Ireland's Special Criminal Court, after being arrested near a car containing 250 pounds (110 kg) of explosives and nearly 5,000 rounds of ammunition. He refused to recognise the court, and was sentenced to six months imprisonment. In court, he declared his membership of the Provisional IRA 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'.[14]

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 again in the early 1990s.[15] He was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont in 1982, representing Derry. 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.[16] On 9 December 1982, McGuinness, Gerry Adams and Danny Morrison were banned from entering Great Britain under the Prevention of Terrorism Act by William Whitelaw, the then Home Secretary.[17]

In August 1993, he was the subject of a two-part special by 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".[18]

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.[19] 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.[20] In his documentary, Taylor alleges that McGuinness was the head of the IRA's Northern Command and had advance knowledge of the IRA's 1987 Enniskillen bombing, which left 11 civilians dead.

Chief negotiator and Minister of Education

He became Sinn Féin's chief negotiator in the Northern Ireland peace process negotiations which led to the Good Friday 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.[21] He was re-elected to the Westminster Parliament in 2001, 2005 and 2010.

In May 2003, transcripts of telephone calls between McGuinness and British officials including Mo Mowlam, the then 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 by Kathryn Johnston and Liam Clarke. The tapes had been made by MI5 and the authors of the book were arrested under the Official Secrets Act. The conversations showed an easy and friendly relationship between McGuinness and Powell. 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.[22]

St Andrews Agreement and deputy First Minister

United States President Barack Obama with Peter Robinson and McGuinness in March 2009.

In the weeks following the St Andrews Agreement, the four biggest 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 convened on 8 May 2007 and Paisley and McGuinness were nominated as First Minister and deputy First Minister respectively. On 12 May the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle agreed to take up three places on the Northern Ireland Policing Board, and nominated three MLAs to take them.

On 8 December 2007, while visiting President of the United States George W. Bush in the White House with the Northern Ireland First Minister Ian Paisley, McGuinness 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."[23][24]

2011 Irish presidential campaign

On 16 September 2011 McGuinness was announced as the Sinn Féin candidate in the 2011 Irish presidential election.[25][26] In the election held on 27 October, McGuinness placed third in the first preference vote, behind Michael D. Higgins and Seán Gallagher.[27]

McGuinness was the only candidate who was ineligible to vote in the election as, although he is an Irish citizen, he is not ordinarily resident in the Republic of Ireland.[28] Following his defeat, McGuinness formally returned to the role of deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland on 31 October.[29]

Resignation from the House of Commons

On 30 December 2012 McGuinness announced that he had formally resigned as the MP for Mid-Ulster stating "I have served formal notice of my resignation from the position of MP for Mid-Ulster with immediate effect. This is in line with my party's commitment to end double jobbing."[30] In order to do this, he was made Steward of the Manor of Northstead on 2 January 2013 by Chancellor George Osborne, making him an employee of the Crown and thus ineligible for membership of the House of Commons.[31][32]

Brexit 2016

McGuinness opposed Brexit, wanting the UK to remain within the European Union. Since the referendum result he has stated that he is concerned that Brexit will see the return of a "hard border" on the island of Ireland. He claims that along with hurting trade and politics for Northern Ireland, Brexit will be "very damaging for all those people who supported the Good Friday Agreement."

Personal life

One of his middle names, Pacelli, is after Pope Pius XII.[33]

He married Bernadette Canning in 1974. They have four children, two girls and two boys.[34] McGuinness is a fan of the Derry Gaelic football and hurling teams[35] and played both sports when he was younger.[35] He grew up just 50 metres from Celtic Park, the home of Derry's Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).[35] His brother Tom[35] played Gaelic football for Derry and is regarded as one of the county's best ever players.[36] He has three Ulster Senior Football Championship medals, as well as Ulster Under 21 and All-Ireland Under 21 Championship medals.[37] He supports Derry City F.C. where his younger brother Paul played for the Candystripes.[38]

He supports Manchester United and he has followed them since he was 8 years old.[39] McGuinness also has an enduring interest in cricket – sometimes extending his support to the England cricket team, as well as that of Ireland.[40]

McGuinness is a member of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association, meaning that he does not drink alcohol.[41]

See also

Further reading


  1. Ag cur Gaeilge ar ais i mbéal an phobail – Fórógra Shinn Féin do na Toghcháin Westminster – Sinn Féin press release, released 22 April 2005.
  2. About the Department Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister
  3. "Martin McGuinness set to be SF Áras candidate". RTÉ.ie. 16 September 2011. Retrieved 28 September 2011.
  4. GrabOne daily deals (18 September 2011). "McGuinness: My pay will be €35k, I'll be people's president". Retrieved 28 September 2011.
  5. Simpson, Mark (17 September 2011). "Martin McGuinness: Paramilitary to politician to president?". Retrieved 28 September 2011.
  6. Profile BBC News
  7. "Martin McGuinness resigns as MP for Mid-Ulster", RTÉ News, Ireland
  8. "Robinson is new NI first minister", BBC News, 5 June 2008; Accessed 5 June 2008
  9. Henry McDonald IRA victim's brother says Martin McGuinness has blood on his hands The Guardian 12 October 2011
  10. McGuinness confirms IRA role BBC News, 2 May 2001
  11. "CAIN: [Widgery Report] Report of the Tribunal appointed to inquire into events on Sundy 30 January 1972".
  12. John Innes, "McGuinness is named as bomb runner", The Scotsman, 21 October 2003.
  13. "Report of The Bloody Sunday Inquiry – Volume I – Chapter 3". Bloody Sunday Inquiry. 15 June 2010. Archived from the original on 24 August 2010. Retrieved 15 June 2010. 3.119 In the course of investigating the activities of the Provisional and Official IRA on the day, we considered at some length allegations that Martin McGuinness, at that time the Adjutant of the Derry Brigade or Command of the Provisional IRA, had engaged in paramilitary activity during the day. In the end we were left in some doubt as to his movements on the day. Before the soldiers of Support Company went into the Bogside he was probably armed with a Thompson sub-machine gun, and though it is possible that he fired this weapon, there is insufficient evidence to make any finding on this, save that we are sure that he did not engage in any activity that provided any of the soldiers with any justification for opening fire.
  14. Taylor, Peter (1997). Provos The IRA & Sinn Féin. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 152–53. ISBN 0-7475-3818-2.
  15. Setting the Record Straight Sinn Féin
  16. Martin McGuinness: From Guns to Government by Liam Clarke and Kathryn Johnston (ISBN 1-84018-725-5), pages 152–153
  17. Martin McGuinness: From Guns to Government by Liam Clarke and Kathryn Johnston (ISBN 1-84018-725-5), page 155
  18. Martin McGuinness: From Guns to Government by Liam Clarke and Kathryn Johnston (ISBN 1-84018-725-5), page 222
  19. Harding, Thomas (21 February 2005). "Adams and McGuinness named as IRA leaders". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  20. Age of Terror, BBC News, 21 April 2008
  21. McGuinness: Let's work together BBC News, 4 December 1999
  22. "Martin McGuinness Wiretap Transcripts". Retrieved 28 September 2011.
  23. Paisley and McGuinness in US trip BBC News, 3 December 2007
  24. Martina Purdy 'Charming' ministers woo president BBC News, 8 December 2007
  25. McDonald, Henry (16 September 2011). "Martin McGuinness to run for Irish presidency". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 16 September 2011.
  26. "Martin McGuinness to run for president of Ireland". The Daily Telegraph. London. 17 September 2011. Retrieved 17 September 2011.
  27. "McGuinness unable to vote for himself". Irish Independent. 28 October 2011.
  28. "Martin McGuinness returns as deputy first minister". BBC News. 31 October 2011.
  29. "Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness resigns as Mid-Ulster MP", BBC News
  30. "McGuinness awarded British title". The Irish Times.
  31. "Manor of Northstead". HM Treasury. 2 January 2013. Retrieved 31 March 2013.
  32. 25.^ Hardliners vent their fury at Martin McGuinness The Guardian, 14 March 2009
  33. 1 2 3 4 McGuinness, Martin (26 August 2001). "Fanzone – Martin McGuinness". Irish Independent. Retrieved 6 August 2009.
  34. "Ulster's 125 – Derry shortlist". The Irish News. 10 February 2009. Retrieved 7 April 2009.
  35. "Derry Greats – Tom McGuinness". Red Hand View – Tyrone vs Derry (National League Division 1 Round 6 programme). A-Star Design. 28 March 2009.
  36. "My team". The Guardian. London, UK.
  37. "Martin McGuinness: I brought Ulster luck in the '99 Euro final".
  38. Kingsley, Patrick (25 January 2012). "Martin McGuinness: How I fell in love with cricket". The Guardian. London.
  39. Martin McGuinness: From Guns to Government by Liam Clarke and Kathryn Johnston (ISBN 1-84018-725-5) A chapter is reproduced at CAIN web site

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Martin McGuinness.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
William McCrea
Member of Parliament
for Mid Ulster

Succeeded by
Francie Molloy
Northern Ireland Assembly
New constituency Member of the Legislative Assembly
for Mid Ulster

Succeeded by
Linda Dillon
Preceded by
Maeve McLaughlin
Member of the Legislative Assembly
for Foyle

Political offices
New office Minister of Education
Succeeded by
Caitríona Ruane
Preceded by
Mark Durkan
Deputy First Minister
of Northern Ireland



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