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'He didn't go to war, war came to him': Gerry Adams pays tribute to ally and friend Martin McGuinness

The two had known each other for over 45 years.

Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness at the funeral of Patrick Kelly, 30, the reputed IRA commander in East Tyrone, in May 1987.
Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness at the funeral of Patrick Kelly, 30, the reputed IRA commander in East Tyrone, in May 1987.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

SINN FÉIN PRESIDENT Gerry Adams has paid tribute to Martin McGuinness, his longstanding political ally and friend.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Adams spoke about his relationship with McGuinness throughout the years and described him as a “passionate republican”.

“I am very sad this morning. I came up to Derry late last night. I think he’ll be missed, but mostly, mostly, mostly by his family,” said Adams.

Speaking about the Northern Ireland Troubles and the role McGuinness played as a senior member of the IRA, Adams said that the former republican leader had travelled on a long journey towards fighting for peace.

“It was a long time in the making. The journey, as it’s being called, if you go back over the decades,” he said.

Martin McGuinness never went to war, the war came to him. It came to his streets, it came to his city, it came to his community.

Adams said that the conflict had emerged from people in Northern Ireland being denied civil rights and inaction from both the Irish and British governments.

Martin McGuinness death Martin McGuinness (left) and Gerry Adams addressing the media after their meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in 2006. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

“When we were arguing for civil rights, we got the answer. When we were arguing for basic modest reforms, we got the answer and it was a militaristic answer,” he said.

“And the response of the State in terms of the southern state was to echo what the British were doing.

Republicans were censored, were interned, were imprisoned. Martin spent time in Portlaoise [prison] on a no-jury trial on the word of a superintendent or some senior Garda officer.

Adams said that republicans were certainly not blameless for their role in the conflict, but that any argument for peace was “shut down” by the opposing sides.

“The awful mistake that the establishment made – they handed the problem to the generals,” Adams said.

And when generals have a problem and the politicians abdicate their responsibilities then generals will behave as generals behave.

Meeting

Adams also spoke of his personal and professional relationship with McGuinness stretching back through the years.

Brexit Source: PA Wire/PA Images

“Martin and I, we first met 45 years ago. We were involved in peace talks at that time,” he said.

“We were both from very similar backgrounds.

We had a conviction that the partition was wrong and needed to be ended and that the people of this island could govern ourselves and that was a job of work that all of us should be uniting to bring about.

He said that he had grown to know McGuinness in the late 1970s when the two worked together towards modernising the Sinn Féin party.

Martin McGuinness death Source: PA Wire/PA Images

[It] was a very good party and made up of very, very good people but was a second cousin to the army, to the IRA and we believed that we needed to have a radical republican people-centred, democratic movement.

When questioned about the people who may dislike McGuinness or condemn him for his past action in the IRA, Adams said it was “fair enough” if people didn’t forgive him.

Read: ‘He served the people of Northern Ireland’: Tributes pour in across the political divide for Martin McGuinness

Read: Martin McGuinness has died at the age of 66

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About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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