Former deputy first minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness fought a deadly rare genetic disease with links to his mother’s home town in the months before his death.
McGuinness, 66, passed away last night just weeks after the controversial politician – and former commander of the Provisional IRA – was diagnosed with amyloidosis.
The genetic mutation causes abnormal deposits of protein throughout the body.
One hereditary form the disease ATTR amyloidosis was first diagnosed in an Irish family in 1986 and a cluster of cases have since been identified in the Co Donegal area, where up to one in 100 people are estimated to possess the mutation.
McGuinness’ mother Peggy, who died in 2008, was from originally Buncrana, Co Donegal.
Amyloidosis can lead to stiffening of the heart muscle, leading to symptoms such as shortness of breath, irregular heartbeats, weight loss, fatigue and dizziness.
Sinn Féin previously said McGuinness’s health is a private matter – and that they would not discuss it further.
McGuinness stunned the political world when he appeared frail and dramatically announced his retirement from politics at a press conference in January due to illness.
It emerged last week McGuinness’ health had seriously deteriorated after he was rushed into hospital a fortnight ago – and that close friends had been ‘praying for him’.
He was said to have been suffering from severe side effects of his treatment where he was being cared for at the Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry.
Once described as “Britain’s number one terrorist”, Martin McGuinness left his past behind to become one of the major players in Northern Ireland’s peace process.
His unlikely journey took him from being second-in-command of the Provisional IRA in Londonderry on Bloody Sunday to Deputy First Minister (DFM) at Stormont.
Mr McGuinness always acknowledged his IRA past.
In 1972, at the age of 21, he was second-in-command of the IRA in Derry, a position he held at the time of Bloody Sunday, when 14 civil rights protesters were killed in the city by soldiers with the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment.
The following year he was convicted by the Republic of Ireland’s Special Criminal Court after being arrested near a car containing explosives and ammunition.
McGuinness once told how his parents were “horrified” when a local priest arrived at their door to say their son had been searching for parts to make “destructive devices”.
He described his parents as “very religious people” and said their primary concern was always his safety.
After his release from jail, and another conviction in the Republic for IRA membership, he became increasingly prominent in Sinn Fein, eventually becoming its best known face after Gerry Adams.
During the Troubles McGuinness had read numerous academic dissertations which all concluded that the British Army could not militarily beat the IRA.
But he claimed he believed the IRA could not defeat the British and became motivated to convince people change could only happen through politics. (Source)