Former Irish leaders pay tribute to 'great negotiator'
Former Irish leaders who played central roles in peace talks have spoken about the example that the late Martin McGuinness set.
Bertie Ahern, taoiseach when the Good Friday Agreement was being brokered, described the one-time IRA commander as a great leader, an extraordinary person, honest and an upfront negotiator.
"In negotiations when there is a lot at stake and it can't be a 'winner takes all' - Martin understood compromise," he told RTE Radio.
"He listened and he was able, I think, to arbitrate between different points of view."
Mr Ahern said he could "totally" understand why Mr McGuinness joined the IRA in his hometown of Derry at the height of the civil rights movement but said that he also put his life on the line to pursue peace.
He said the Sinn Fein chief negotiator took an unparalleled path to peace and was a critical part of changing the course of history in Northern Ireland.
"I think Martin McGuinness would have been happier following Derry GAA club or Derry City or fly-fishing in Donegal," he said.
"He was a good person in my view.
"He moved from a very difficult past where he took a particular side and he was a good person to negotiate with and certainly I considered him as a good friend as we went through 25 years of discussions."
John Bruton, taoiseach from 1994 to 1997, when Northern Ireland peace talks were delicately poised and a lengthy IRA ceasefire broke, said it was sad Mr McGuinness would not see complete reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
"Notwithstanding our profound political differences, I always found him to be a very friendly person and easy to talk to," he said.
"The good and warm personal relationship he developed with Ian Paisley set a very good example. But it has yet to be followed by a genuine political reconciliation between the two communities they represented.
"It is sad that Martin will not be around to complete the important task he undertook."