LONDON: Northern Ireland’s former deputy first minister and one-time Irish Republican Army commander Martin McGuinness has died aged 66, his Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein said on Tuesday. McGuinness played a central behind-the-scenes role in negotiating a peace deal in 1998 which brought to an end three decades of conflict in Northern Ireland which killed more than 3,500 people. “It is with deep regret and sadness that we have learnt of the death of our friend and comrade Martin McGuinness who passed away in Derry during the night,” his Sinn Fein party, which is opposed to British rule in Northern Ireland, said in a statement. The BBC said he had died of a rare heart condition. “While I can never condone the path he took in the earlier part of his life, Martin McGuinness ultimately played a defining role in leading the Republican movement away from violence,” Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement. “In doing so, he made an essential contribution to the extraordinary journey of Northern Ireland from conflict to peace,” she said. Colin Parry, whose 12-year-old son Tim died in an IRA bomb in the English town of Warrington in 1993, said he could not forgive the IRA but paid tribute to McGuinness’s “desire for peace.” McGuinness was “a brave man, who put himself at some risk” from more hardline members of the republican movement, Parry was quoted by the Guardian newspaper as saying.