Fine Gael attack McGuinness


Fine Gael has launched a direct attack on Sinn Féin presidential candidate Martin McGuinness, questioning his suitability for the office.

Fine Gael presidential candidate Gay Mitchell and Minister for Defence Alan Shatter both said yesterday that Mr McGuinness would not be an appropriate person to be titular head of the Defence Forces.

Mr Mitchell said the entry of Mr McGuinness into the election “raises very real questions” for the Irish people. He had spent his life defending the State and was not about to surrender it to people who would change it from the inside. Mr Mitchell said Mr McGuinness had opposed the very existence of this State and yet was seeking an office that involved being commander-in-chief of the Defence Forces and also involved a role under the Defence Acts in overseeing their operation.

Similarly Mr Shatter said Mr McGuinness was an “inappropriate” person to become president of Ireland. Speaking in Brussels, he questioned whether it would be apt for Mr McGuinness to become titular head of the Defence Forces. He said the former IRA leader could not credibly present himself as a force for reconciliation throughout Ireland.

The Minister for Justice pointed to the fact that the then Northern Ireland deputy first minister had boycotted the State dinner in Dublin Castle for Queen Elizabeth hosted by President McAleese. “I was personally particularly taken aback that Sinn Féin boycotted that dinner and deemed it inappropriate to be there. I thought it would have been a very valuable gesture along the further road of reconciliation that we would have the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland present at that dinner.”

Martin McGuinness said today ‘he had no intention of engaging in petty attacks on fellow candidates for the Áras’.

“I have fought many election campaigns and I have never engaged in negative campaigning or in petty attacks on fellow candidates.

"I do not intend to change that approach now as we face into the Presidential campaign," he said.