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Martin McGuiness' Legacy

War and Peace in Northern Ireland

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams helps carry Martin McGuiness' coffin at the latter's funeral in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, March 2017. Clodagh Kilcoyne / Reuters

The March 23 death of Martin McGuinness, the former deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, has led to much angst as various commentators have struggled to come to terms with his complicated and contradictory life as a former terrorist turned peacemaker and politician.

McGuinness died at the relatively young age of 66 from amyloidosis, a rare condition that affects the tissues and organs. He has been widely mourned; his funeral was the largest in Northern Ireland since those of the ten hunger strikers in 1981, eight of whom—including Bobby Sands, the most famous one—were McGuiness’s colleagues in the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Although 66 is young for a politician, it might be considered a good age for any IRA man to live to. On joining the paramilitary organization, which for three decades worked to drive the British out of Northern Ireland, volunteers were told they were most likely to end up

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