Irish Republican News · October 14, 2011
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
RTE launches anti-McGuinness campaign

Presidential candidate Martin McGuinness has said that an election debate on state-run RTE television on Wednesday night amounted to a “trial by television”.

The hour-long Prime Time show, featuring all seven candidates for this month’s Presidential election, was dominated by a series of wild attacks by presenter Miriam O’Callaghan against the North’s Deputy First Minister

Shortly after she began ‘moderating’ the debate, Ms O’Callaghan bluntly declared that Mr McGuinness was a murderer.

“How do you square with your God, Martin McGuinness, the fact that you were involved in the murder of so many people?

“Do you confess? Do you go to confession?”

The well-known blonde-haired presenter was also heard muttering insults about Mr McGuinness under her breath. She also bizarrely declared that, as a republican, he must know the identity of those involved in Provisional IRA actions in the 26 Counties.

RTE admitted it had received more than 100 complaints about the Prime Time debate, while the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland said it had also received a number of complaints.

Mr McGuinness said it was “unfair, totally out of order, and wrong” that he was accused of being a murderer on live television. He said he asked for a one-to-one meeting with Ms O’Callaghan following the debate, but there were no raised voices.

“I am quite content to leave the judgement of last night’s programme - the fairness of otherwise of it - to the people of Ireland. They are the ones that I’m depending on in this election.”

An intervention by the staunchly conservative state broadcaster in the Presidential campaign had seemed inevitable after other establishment media groups moved to oppose Mr McGuinness’s election. That campaign has so far served only to attract more voters to Mr McGuinness -- in turn reinforcing establishment fears that the Mid-Ulster MP has a realistic chance of victory, and so provoking even more hysterical denunciations.

With two weeks left to go before polling day, there have even been suggestions that a victory for the Derry man on October 27 could provoke a constitutional crisis. Right-wing elements have highlighted questions over how the 26-County Army might respond to the election of a one-time IRA commander.

In particular, RTE and other media organisations were present this week to record a choreographed confrontation in Athlone between Mr McGuinness and David Kelly, whose father, an Army soldier, was tragically killed in a shoot-out with the IRA in 1983.

Mr Kelly described the Sinn Fein politician as a “liar” for saying he did not know the identity of the Provisional IRA who were involved in the incident. Mr Kelly also asserted that Mr McGuinness was a member of the IRA army council at the time.

“As a republican leader I have never and would never stand over attacks on the Garda Siochana or the Defence Forces,” Mr McGuinness said.

Mr McGuinness devoted much of a speech to a rally in Trim, County Meath, to the confrontation. He said his heart went out to families in the South who had lost relatives during the conflict, including gardai and Army personnel.

Mr McGuinness said there was a need for a real process of national reconciliation.

“I understand that the individual pain felt by victims and the relatives of victims on all sides and none in the recent conflict cannot be healed overnight. Some may never heal,” he said.

“I want to deepen and expand the role of the president to lead the process of national reconciliation in Ireland, Mr McGuinness added.

A major rally for Mr McGuinness was held at the Mansion House in Dublin on Thursday night.

A number of high-profile endorsements were unveiled, with actor Colm Meaney describing Mr McGuinness as a statesman, and actress Roma Downey calling him as “a visionary”.

Irish American businessman Bill Flynn appeared on screen to rebut the claim from 26-County Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan that corporate investment in Ireland would dwindle if the North’s former deputy first minister became president. The claim was “badly incorrect”, Mr Flynn said.

Other endorsements for Mr McGuinness unveiled so far include those of former South African Minister Ronnie Kasrils, singer Frances Black, football manager Roddy Collins, GAA star Peter Canavan, playwright Peter Sheridan, artist Robert Ballagh, actress Fionnula Flanagan and Dublin hurler Ryan O’Dywer.

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© 2011 Irish Republican News