Wales politics

Martin McGuinness vital to NI peace, says Carwyn Jones

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Media captionMartin McGuinness was "absolutely vital" to the peace process, says Carwyn Jones

Wales' first minister has paid tribute to Martin McGuinness, saying the Sinn Féin politician was "vital in bringing peace" to Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland's former deputy first minister has died aged 66 after suffering from a rare heart condition.

The former IRA leader turned peacemaker worked at the heart of the power-sharing government following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Carwyn Jones said he had built "bridges" across politics.

"I worked closely with him over many years at British Irish Councils, Joint Ministerial Councils and beyond. When he spoke, people listened," Mr Jones, the Labour AM for Bridgend, said.

"That presence explains much about how he was able to build bridges across the political divide."

Mr Jones added it was important to "remember his background and where he came from".

"But peace in Northern Ireland came because the hawks made peace. He was one of the hawks and was able to make sure the peace process held," he said.

"He cared deeply for the people he represented. He was able to make sure we saw the disarming on the republican side."

Mr McGuinness became deputy first minister in 2007, standing alongside Democratic Unionist Party leaders Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Arlene Foster.

He stood down from his post in January in protest against the DUP's handling of an energy scandal, in a move that triggered a snap election.

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Media captionPeter Hain says Martin McGuinness had "grassroots credibility" with the IRA

Lord Hain, the former Labour MP for Neath, worked with Mr McGuinness during his two years as Northern Ireland secretary between 2005 and 2007 and at the St Andrews Agreement in 2006.

"He had the grassroots credibility of a republican leader and former IRA commander that could enable him, along with Gerry Adams, to take his followers, to take republicans, from the past of terror and horror into a democratic future, which is what he did," Lord Hain told the BBC.

"Sometimes in the history of conflicts - and, goodness me, the island of Ireland has been involved in centuries of conflict with Britain - you need leaders who can rise above their past and, at that point, Martin McGuinness certainly stood the test and proved to be an indispensable figure."

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said: "Martin McGuinness played a key role in bringing to an end the Troubles.

"But for all too many families in Northern Ireland, and across the United Kingdom, the eulogising this morning will be too much to bear."

Former Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones told BBC Radio Cymru's Post Cyntaf programme he first met Mr McGuinness in 2007 when they were both deputy first ministers.

He said Mr McGuinness had "a great interest" in the Welsh language and was always keen to learn about legislative methods of securing the future of the language.

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