Fianna Fáil Leader, Micheál Martin has expressed his deepest sympathies on the very sad passing of the former Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness.

“It represents a very sad moment in the shared history of the island of Ireland. More than most Martin Mc Guinness embraced the Peace Process with a generosity of spirt that won people over.

“By his actions and words over the last 25 years, he demonstrated a keen understanding of what the Peace Process was all about.

“He worked to build bridges between the different traditions and communities on the island.

“He reached out to the Unionist community in particular, and their leaders, to steer Northern Ireland towards a better shared future. His leadership with former DUP Leader, the late Revd Ian Paisley was a striking illustration of this.

“I first met Martin McGuinness during my time as Minister for Education when he was appointed as Minister for Education in the North in the first devolved power-sharing administration. He had a clear commitment to the disadvantaged and saw the pivotal role education can play in providing equality of opportunity.

“In particular during my time as Minister for Foreign Affairs, I worked very closely with Martin and others during the tough negotiations on the devolution of justice and policing powers.

“Despite the Peace Process going through a rocky period at that time, Martin retained the respect of all sides and never allowed the politics of the situation to affect his personal relationships.

“He was deeply committed to reconciliation.

“As a man, he possessed great humility, and was very personable. His work in the Peace Process will undoubtedly inspire others to follow his legacy in continuing to build stronger bridges between both traditions on this island.

“I want to extend my deepest sympathies to his loving wife Bernie, his children Fiachra, Emmett, Fionnuala and Gráinne, to his extended family and to his friends and colleagues in the Sinn Fein party.

“Ar Dheis Dé go raibh a anam dhílis,” concluded Martin.