SF confirms McGuinness as Áras candidate

Wednesday 19 October 2011 15.15
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Martin McGuinness says he has spent 20 years working towards peace
Martin McGuinness says he has spent 20 years working towards peace
Martin McGuinness hopes to be a President for the whole island
Martin McGuinness hopes to be a President for the whole island

Martin McGuinness has been confirmed as the Sinn Féin Presidential candidate by the party's Ard Chomhairle.

At a press conference following the Ard Comhairle meeting, Mr McGuinness said he was humbled at being selected to run in the Presidential race.

He said he had given the issue a lot of thought before deciding to accept the nomination and hopes to be a President for the whole island.

Acknowledging his past role in the IRA he said republicans, including himself, have obligations to heal the wounds of their actions and that he now has a strong record of promoting peace and people see him as a peacemaker.

Mr McGuinness said if elected he would only draw the average wage and donate the bulk of the President's salary to the Irish people.

He said he would see the President facilitating a dialogue around the issue of what type of republic Ireland should be, and also being central in the unfinished business of the peace process, namely national reconciliation.

Mr McGuinness said he has been contacted by people who lost loved ones at the hands of the IRA and who have pledged to support him in the election.

He said if elected as President of Ireland he would have a huge responsibility to uphold all institutions of the State, including An Garda Síochána, to whom he said he would give 100% support.

Speaking on RTE's This Week, Mr McGuinness said he will go on a nationwide tour as part of his campaign to become Ireland's next President.

He said he wants to start a conversation about how to create a new republic, in the wake of the difficulties many ordinary people faced as a result of, what he called, the selfishness and greed of the bankers and others.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said Mr McGuinness "embodies everything that is needed in a political leader".

He added: "Martin would truly be a president for all Ireland and all Irish people wherever they are.

"There is no other Irish political figure who commands the respect that Martin does both here in Ireland and amongst Irish people across the world.

"Martin has been central to the peace process and the search for national reconciliation. This election provides a national platform for this work."

Mr McGuiness has already secured the support of four Independent TDs - Michael Healy-Rae and Tom Fleming of Kerry South, Finian McGrath of Dublin North Central and Luke 'Ming' Flanagan of Roscommon/South Leitrim.

Former British Conservative cabinet minister, Norman Tebbitt - who was injured when the IRA bombed Brighton's Grand Hotel in 1984 - said it was a pity that Mr McGuinness had not worked for peace sooner.

Poll puts Higgins ahead

Reacting to today's poll that gives him 32% of support, Labour candidate Michael D Higgins rejected the idea he's on course to win the election.

Mr Higgins said he will not stop campaigning until the morning before voting day, when the real poll takes place.

Responding to Mr McGuinness' announcement that he will only draw the minimum wage if elected, Mr Higgins said he will take neither his Dáil nor Ministerial pensions if he becomes President.

He said he would be happy to pay tax on the Presidential salary, whatever the Government decides it will do.

Fine Gael candidate Gay Mitchell says he is very optimistic that his party will win the Presidential election and he dismissed today's Sunday Independent poll that indicates he has lost some support.

Independent candidate Mary Davis said she will take whatever salary the Government decides if elected President.

Ms Davis said wages and salary never concerned her, having worked for charitable organisations for 30 years.

She also said she is very pleased with the Sunday Independent poll, which shows her support has increased.

Elsewhere, Senator David Norris has said he would welcome the opportunity to get back in the Presidential race.

However, he would not comment as to whether or not Oireachtas members are supporting him.

Mr Norris said: "The work starts tomorrow. You're not in the race until you have the numbers, and that's what I'm working on."