Updated: 21/03/17 : 07:13:10
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Martin McGuinness passes away overnight

The death has been announced of Martin McGuinness.

RTÉ reports that Mr McGuinness, 66, died early this morning at Derry's Altnagelvin Hospital with his family by his bedside.

He had been diagnosed with a rare heart disease in December.

A former member of the IRA's Army Council, he became Sinn Féin's chief negotiator in the peace process.

He led the party into power-sharing with the DUP in 2007 and served as deputy first minister alongside Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Arlene Foster.

In 2011, Mr McGuinness contested the presidential election which was won by Michael D Higgins.

Gallery: A life in pictures ¦ McGuinness: From IRA commander to peacemaker ¦

McGuinness retired from politics in January

Mr McGuinness will be remembered as one of the most influential Irish politicians of modern times.

One of seven children, his mother came from Buncrana and his father from Derry city.

He left school at 15 and began an apprenticeship in a local butcher's.

At the time of the Bloody Sunday killings by the British Army in Derry in 1972, he was a senior figure in the local IRA.

Mr McGuinness always acknowledged he was a member of the IRA and never apologised for his IRA past.

In 1974, he was released from Portlaoise prison after serving a sentence for a membership conviction.

In his decade as deputy first minister, Mr McGuinness consistently championed reconciliation. Foes warmed to him. His closest political relationship was with Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams.

His final political act was to resign as deputy first minister and collapse the administration over a row with the DUP.

Mr McGuinness is likely to be remembered for embracing generosity as a weapon of choice.

President Michael D Higgins has led the tributes, saying: "The world of politics and the people across this island will miss the leadership he gave, shown most clearly during the difficult times of the peace process, and his commitment to the values of genuine democracy that he demonstrated in the development of the institutions in Northern Ireland.

"As President of Ireland, I wish to pay tribute to his immense contribution to the advancement of peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland, a contribution which has rightly been recognised across all shades of opinion."

Speaking this morning, Mr Adams said: "Throughout his life Martin showed great determination, dignity and humility and it was no different during his short illness.

"He was a passionate republican who worked tirelessly for peace and reconciliation and for the re-unification of his country.

"But above all he loved his family and the people of Derry and he was immensely proud of both.

"On behalf of republicans everywhere we extend our condolences to Bernie, Fiachra, Emmett, Fionnuala and Grainne, grandchildren and the extended McGuinness family."