The heads of Northern Ireland’s main Protestant and Catholic political parties have joined together in an historic power-sharing government. Ian Paisley, leader of an anti-Catholic church, and Martin McGuinness, formerly of the IRA, will lead the new government. Both men have spent time in prison for their extremist roles in the conflict.


Both Paisley and McGuinness spent time behind bars for their extremist paths and analysts agree that both, in very different ways, have blood on their hands today.

Paisley, a bombastic orator who leads his own virulently anti-Catholic church, was imprisoned in 1969 for leading an illegal demonstration against Catholic marchers demanding equal rights in voting, housing and employment. His strident, stubborn invective fanned the flames of Protestant mob violence and helped to delay by decades today’s historic compromise.

McGuinness, a high school dropout from Londonderry who rose to become the city’s IRA commander, served two short 1970s sentences for IRA membership — and spent many years more on the run while serving in the IRA’s ruling “army council,” the seven-man committee ultimately responsible for killing nearly 1,800 people and maiming thousands more.

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