Senior Provisional IRA commander Brian Keenan has died after a battle with cancer.
The West Belfast-based republican was a key figure in the organisation throughout the conflict and the peace process.
In his recent autobiography, former Downing Street chief of staff Jonathan Powell said Mr Keenan was at one time “the single biggest threat to the British state” but was “instrumental in bringing the IRA round to the political strategy”. Mr Keenan is also recognised as the man who eventually ensured the decommissioning of IRA weapons.
Mr Keenan was a former member of the IRA’s Army Council. He joined the IRA in 1968 following violence in Belfast and Derry and in the early 1970s controlled the arms of the Belfast IRA as quartermaster.
He resigned from the Army Council in 2005 due to ill-health.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said the death would come as a shock to all republicans.
“Brian was a formidable republican leader over 40 years of activism,” he said.
“He was a man of tremendous energy, even in the face of a debilitating illness.” He added that his dedication to republicanism was unswerving.
“Brian Keenan’s strong endorsement of the Sinn Féin peace strategy was crucial in securing the support of the IRA leadership for the series of historic initiatives which sustained the peace process through its most difficult times.” Mr Adams said he was a good friend and steadfast republican.
“He made an incalculable contribution to the republican struggle,” he said.
“Brian will be greatly missed by his family and friends and by the many republicans who over the years have been touched by his generosity, friendship, and humour.”