Martin McGuinness set to contest Presidency of Ireland

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has confirmed reports that the party’s Ard Chomhairle [high council] is to meet on Sunday morning to discuss a proposal from the party’s leadership to nominate Martin McGuinness to stand in the 26-County presidential election.

Mr Adams said: “The officer board will recommend that the candidate will be Martin McGuinness. Sinn Fein believes that the office of Uachtaran na hEireann [President of Ireland] has been made more relevant by Mary Robinson and by President Mary McAleese.”

Mr Adams said it was now “a time of great challenge for all the people of Ireland.

“We need positive but authentic leadership. It will be a great honour for me to propose Martin McGuinness to contest this election on a broad, republican, citizen-centred platform.”

Rumours of his nomination had been widely discounted due to Mr McGuinness’s present role as Deputy First Minister in the Six-County administration at Stormont.

Sinn Fein will also require the support of three members of the Dublin parliament outside the party to support their party nomination.

If nominated, Mr McGuinness currently faces competition from Galway-based Labour party veteran Michael D. Higgins, as well as Gay Mitchell of Fine Gael.

Independent Senator David Norris is also rumoured to be considering re-entering the presidential race. He withdrew in July following a controversy over a magazine interview in which he appeared to defend paedophilia, as well as revelations of his intervention to an Israeli court on behalf of a former lover who had been convicted of the statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fail’s parliamentary party will meet again on Tuesday to decide whether to allow TDs and Senators to nominate candidates. Fianna Fail Senator Labhras O Murchu is seeking the support of his colleagues to run as an Independent.

But the candidacy of Mr McGuinness, a former IRA commander, has surprised even Sinn Fein’s own membership. His candidacy will, however, guarantee the party a strong position in an election campaign which had become notorious for the failure of establishment parties to present a suitable candidate.

“I believe that this election will give Martin the platform to continue the work which he has led in the North and in the peace process and to put it on a national footing,” Mr Adams said today.

“I believe he can be the people’s president. If elected he will draw the average industrial wage. He will dedicate himself to a genuine national reconciliation and the unity of our people. He will personify hope in the great genius and integrity of all the people of this island, Catholics, Protestants and Dissenters.

“I would appeal, if Martin contests this election, for people to join in this campaign, including people in the North and across the diaspora who are denied a vote at this time. The campaign will give citizens the opportunity to make a stand for a better Ireland, for a united Ireland.”

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© 2011 Irish Republican News