Maurice Quinlivan and Martin McGuinness on a walkabout in Limerick during the general election Picture: Press 22
LIMERICK'S Sinn Fein TD Maurice Quinlivan has described the passing of Martin McGuinness, who has died aged 66, as akin to a "death in the family".
Mr McGuinness, 66, died early this morning at Derry's Altnagelvin Hospital with his family by his bedside, after being diagnosed with a rare heart disease in December.
Deputy Quinlivan told the Limerick Leader that he was "truly gutted" at Mr McGuinness’ passing and extended his sympathies to his wife and four children.
"He was a great ambassador for the Republican movement and for his native Derry. I don't think the Peace Process would have been constructed or survived without Martin McGuinness being involved and being a leader at a time when it was very, very difficult. I genuinely do believe that it wouldn't have happened without Martin McGuinness," he said.
He said Mr McGuinness, a former member of the IRA's Army Council who became one of the chief architects of the Good Friday Agreement, was a "leader, friend and legend".
"He was a family friend for a great many years. I learned a lot from Martin. You would have had to have met him to know what he was like. He was a very personable person, and that's obviously why he was our deputy First Minister in the North."
Deputy Quinlivan said one of the moments that stood out for him over the years was at a Sinn Fein Ard Fheis in Belfast when a Protestant minister from Derry addressed the convention and praised McGuinness for organising the fundraising of the reconstruction Presbyterian cathedral in Derry city.
"It was amazing stuff to hear what he, someone from a Protestant/Unionist background, said about McGuinness," he added.
Posting a picture of them both, alongside his wife Sue and his mother, he said the first thing McGuinness always said to him was "How's your mother and Sue?"
"We stand on the shoulders of giants. RIP Martin. Sleep well," deputy Quinlivan tweeted this morning.
Fianna Fail deputy Willie O'Dea said that he consistently found Mr McGuinness "on a personal level, to be affable and pleasant to deal with."
"He had a very strong commitment to peace and worked very hard at it. He made a huge contribution - there was no doubt about that. Once he made a commitment, he went at it wholeheartedly. He'll be a big loss to the process," said Deputy O'Dea.
Fianna Fail TD Niall Collins said he "was a man who ultimately embraced the Peace Process and who genuinely sought to bring reconciliation to the island of Ireland.
"Despite our obvious political differences, I see Martin's contribution to the Peace Process as being critical to its continued success.
"His leadership as deputy First Minister helped to build bridges, especially with those in the Unionist community. I want to extend my sympathies to Martin's family and friends on his passing," said Deputy Collins.
Labour deputy Jan O'Sullivan said "what was extraordinary about him was the transition from somebody who led the IRA to someone who led the Peace Process. It was an extraordinary transition and his role was absolutely key, because of where he was coming from and because of who he could bring with him and along the road to peace. While there were many people who played important roles, that was the critical role that he played, in bringing people, who probably no one else could persuade, to the path of peace. That was his major contribution."
In 2011, McGuinness "totally rejected" claims that he visited Kevin Walsh, who was later convicted in connection with the killing of Garda Jerry McCabe in Adare, county Limerick in 1996, while he was in hiding, or that he was aware of the whereabouts of others being sought in connection with the killing.
“The killing of Garda McCabe was unjustifiable. I have condemned it unreservedly. A grave wrong was done to the McCabe family and the IRA have acknowledged that and apologised for it," McGuinness said at the time.
"I have never and would never stand over attacks on members of the defence forces or the gardaí.
“For the record I did not meet with Kevin Walsh in aftermath of the killing of Garda McCabe and I have no information about the whereabouts of any other suspects or if indeed there are any other suspects," he said.
Ann McCabe and the McCabe family spoke out at that time, as they felt compelled to break their silence on McGuinness's candidacy for the office of President of Ireland.
"A vote for Martin McGuinness is a vote for a man who refuses to assist the security forces of this Republic with its investigations into the most serious crimes committed against servants of the State," the family said in a statement.
"We don’t believe this is an issue that can be ignored and brushed aside in the interests of “peace”. We call on all other candidates seeking the office of president to demand from Mr McGuinness that he cooperate with the police into its ongoing inquiries into the terrorist crimes that claimed the lives of servants of this Republic."
Visiting Limerick that year to support the election campaign of then local city councillor Maurice Quinlivan, Mr McGuinness said he was particularly struck by the friendly reception he received in the city, and believed that the “people in Limerick are very open to the message of Sinn Fein in this election and are looking for a real alternative to the failed policies of the establishment parties".
He said that he was confident that Mr Quinlivan "touched a chord with the people of this city and will do very well in the forthcoming election".
While Mr Quinlivan failed to be elected in the 2011 general election, coming fifth in the four seat constituency, he made history in Limerick in 2016, becoming the first Sinn Fein TD elected in the city for 93 years. He passed the quota at the fifth count, securing 10,517 votes in total to reach the 32nd Dail. The last Sinn Fein TD to represent Limerick City was Michael Colivet in 1923.
Now, the party, in line with trends both north and south of the border, continues to see its numbers bolstered both in Limerick city and county.
On the joint local authority, Sinn Fein counts Séighin Ó Ceallaigh from Bruff, John Costelloe of Nicolas Street in the city, Malachy McCreesh of Dooradoyle, Lisa Marie Sheehy of Kilfinane, Ciara McMahon of Athea, and Seamus Browne of Abbeyfeale,
After Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, with 13 and 12 seats held respectively, Sinn Fein is now the third most popular party in Limerick with six seats, ahead of Labour, with three seats, the Anti-Austerity Alliance, with two, and four Independent councillors.
Limerick City and County Council has opened an online book of condolence "in recognition of his contribution to the advancement of peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland".
The book is available online and a facility to assist those without online access to sign the book is available at Limerick City and County Council Customer Services desks during regular office hours.
The book of condolence will remain open until midday on Wednesday, March 29.