Bid for Irish presidency ‘to boost peace process’

Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness has claimed the Northern Ireland peace process will be strengthened by his involvement in the Irish Presidential election.

After being formally endorsed by the party’s leadership, the former IRA commander said the Northern Ireland Assembly would not be destabilised by his surprise move.

Outlining his vision for the presidency, Mr McGuinness vowed to draw only the average wage if elected and donate the remainder to the Irish people.

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“I have every confidence that the (Northern Ireland) institutions will not be destabilised, that the work will continue, that the peace process will remain secure,” Mr McGuinness said.

“In fact I think it will be strengthened by the fact that I am now participating in this very important election.”

Sinn Fein stunned Irish political circles on Friday by announcing that the former IRA leader, who has become a champion of the peace process, was to be its candidate.

The decision has been billed as the republican movement’s most audacious political move since IRA prisoner Bobby Sands was elected an MP while on prison hunger strike in 1981.

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Opponents have already said his former IRA role could become a roadblock and could spark campaign debates that risked upsetting victims of republican violence.

But the Derry-born Republican said people viewed him as a peacemaker.

He added: “People know of my past and they also know of my deep commitment to peace and peace building.”

Mr McGuinness went on: “I want to continue to reach out to those directly affected by the actions of republicans in the course of the conflict.”

He said he had received expressions of support from people whose loved ones were killed by the IRA, while at least three unionist politicians wished him well yesterday.