Martin McGuinness has called on people in Britain to press the Government to end its constitutional link with Northern Ireland.

Sinn Fein's Deputy First Minister with the power-sharing executive in Belfast also questioned the need for the continued existence of a Secretary of State.

The transfer of remaining powers would be a massive vote of confidence in the political institutions as well as a massive saving to the Exchequer.

In an address at the London School of Economics, he declared: "As Ian Paisley said to me during our first meeting 'Martin, we can rule ourselves, we do not need these direct rule ministers coming over here telling us what to do'."

Northern Ireland has had a British Secretary of State based in Hillsborough Castle, Co Down, since 1972. It followed the suspension of the Stormont Parliament because of civil unrest at the time.

But 14 years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, Mr McGuinness said there was also a need for a change in British Government policy in relation to the Union.

The MP for Mid Ulster said: "It has been often said that the Easter Rising marked the end of the British Empire as it was known. The days of colonialism and domination had to end. Peoples' right to national self-determination and freedom would have to take preference to the economic needs of the colonial masters.

"And I say that, not to be provocative or to engage in rhetoric, but to simply mark out a significant landmark on the historical road which has led us to where we are now. The years preceding and following the First World War were a time of great political and constitutional upheaval for the British State. And I firmly believe that we are now living through a similar period of massive change - obviously not as dramatic as 100 years ago, but significant change nonetheless.

"In constitutional terms, whereas the Rising marked the beginning of the end of the Empire as people knew it, it is my belief that the Good Friday Agreement marked the end of the Union, as we know it."

That belief, he said, had been strengthened and confirmed not just by what was happening in Ireland, but also with events elsewhere, with the demand for Scottish independence and greater Welsh autonomy. The constitutional fabric of the British State had been changed forever, he claimed.