Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has paid tribute to former deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness following his death early this morning.

Mr Blair said: “I grew up watching and hearing about the Martin McGuinness who was a leading member of the IRA engaged in armed struggle. I came to know the Martin McGuinness who set aside that armed struggle in favour of making peace.

“There will be some who cannot forget the bitter legacy of the war. And for those who lost loved ones in it that is completely understandable. But for those of us able finally to bring about the Northern Ireland peace agreement, we know we could never have done it without Martin's leadership, courage and quiet insistence that the past should not define the future.”

“Over the years - through the arduous negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement - and for the years after it, I got to know ‎Martin well. We met many, many times and as the trust grew between himself, my team, Gerry Adams and their team, so the discussions became increasingly open, frank and therefore productive.

“By the time that extraordinary day arrived in 2007 after almost a decade of hard work where we could witness the - to my generation - incredible sight of he and Ian Paisley sitting down together in Government, the transition of Martin to reconciliator was complete.”

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