Martin McGuinness | chief negotiator and minister of education

Chief negotiator and Minister of Education

He became Sinn Féin's chief negotiator in the Northern Ireland peace process negotiations which led to the Good Friday Agreement. At the time of his death, former US President Bill Clinton noted that McGuinness was the one who personally oversaw the Agreement's arms decommissioning phase.[26] Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair also acknowledged the leading role which McGuinness had in ensuring the Agreement would be enforced.[27]

He was elected to the Northern Ireland Forum in 1996 representing Foyle. Having contested Foyle unsuccessfully at the 1983, 1987 and 1992 Westminster elections,[28][29][30] he became MP for Mid Ulster in 1997 and after the Agreement was concluded, was returned as a member of the Assembly for the same constituency, and nominated by his party for a ministerial position in the power-sharing executive, where he became Minister of Education. One of his controversial acts as Minister of Education was his decision to scrap the 11-plus exam, which he had failed as a child.[31] He was re-elected to the Westminster Parliament in 2001, 2005 and 2010.

In May 2003, transcripts of telephone calls between McGuinness and British officials including Mo Mowlam, the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's Chief of Staff, were published in a biography of McGuinness entitled From Guns to Government by Kathryn Johnston and Liam Clarke. The tapes had been made by MI5 and the authors of the book were arrested under the Official Secrets Act. The conversations showed an easy and friendly relationship between McGuinness and Powell. He joked with Powell about unionist MPs while Mowlam referred to him as "babe" and discussed her difficulties with Blair. In another transcript, he praised Bill Clinton to Gerry Adams.[32]

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