Martin McGuiness (born May 23, 1950), is the deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. He is a member of the Sinn Féin party and a former chief of staff of the Irish Republican Army. McGuiness is the United Kingdom MP and member of the Northern Ireland Assembly (MLA), both for the mid-Ulster constituency. McGuinness abstains from attendance at the House of Commons, per Sinn Féin policy. He previously served as Minister for Education in Northern Ireland from 1999-2002.
McGuiness was born in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, and joined the IRA in 1970. He quickly rose in the ranks, and participated in the 1972 negotiations between the IRA and the British government. McGuinness was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment for IRA membership by the Republic of Ireland Special Criminal Court in January 1973. Following his release, he became more involved in political activity, negotiating directly and indirectly with the British in the 1980s and 1990s. Journalists and politicians have stated that McGuinness continued to play a leading role in the IRA's terrorist activity during this time.
McGuinness was first elected MP for mid-Ulster in 1997. He was Sinn Féin's lead negotiator in the talks for the Good Friday Agreement.