SF to nominate McGuinness as presidential candidate


Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness is set to be the party's candidate in the presidential election.

Party president Gerry Adams said today the ardchomhairle (executive committee) would meet on Sunday to discuss a recommendation from the officer board to nominate Mr McGuinness, who is currently Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister.

In a statement, Mr Adams said it would be be a great honour for to propose Mr McGuinness to contest the election on a broad republican, citizen-centred platform. “If elected he will draw the average industrial wage. He will dedicate himself to a genuine national reconciliation and the unity of our people,” Mr Adams said.

The election would give Mr McGuinness the platform to continue his work on the peace process and put it on a national footing, he said.

“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.

It is anticipated that the recommendation to put forward Mr McGuinness will be accepted by the ardchomhairle without any serious difficulty.

Speculation that Mr McGuinness would be the candidate had intensified since Mr Adams confirmed during the ardfheis in Belfast last weekend that Sinn Féin was contesting the election.

The notion of Mr McGuinness as a presidential candidate was initially dismissed by observers on the understanding that, if nominated, he would have to step down as Deputy First Minister and MLA at Stormont.

Republican sources now state that this will not be the case and that Mr McGuinness would only have to vacate these positions completely if elected although he would also have to step aside for the duration of the campaign.

The expected emergence of the former IRA activist from Derry as a contender this weekend is likely to have a considerable impact on the presidential race. Out of all the potential Sinn Féin candidates, he was seen as by far the most formidable. He is also seen as the most likely to ensure the party gets its expenses incurred during the campaign.

The belief in republican circles is that, unlike other potential Sinn Féin candidates, Mr McGuinness will have a fair chance of actually winning the election or at least increasing the party's vote considerably from the 10 per cent achieved in this year's general election.

It is inevitable that questions will be raised in the course of the campaign about his paramilitary record although supporters will seek to counteract this by pointing to his long and successful involvement in the peace process and his willingness to condemn the actions of dissident republican paramilitaries.

Candidates need the support of 20 Oireachtas members or four county councils in order to get their names on the ballot paper. Sinn Féin has 17 members of the Oireachtas and will need the support of another three to achieve the required level. Mr Adams made clear at a news conference during the week that he does not anticipate any difficulty in this regard.

The DUP will have had notice of Sinn Féin’s plans and there is a precedent for one of Stormont’s two senior office holder’s stepping aside.

Mr Robinson left office for several weeks at the height of the scandal sparked by the revelation last year that his wife had an affair with a teenager.

The DUP leader temporarily installed a party colleague in his Assembly post, which was allowed under Stormont rules, before he safely returned to the joint Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister that he shares with Mr McGuinness.

If Sinn Fein follow the same route they could place a senior member into the top office at the power-sharing Assembly without any disruption to the administration.

Mr McGuinness has become a leading supporter of the peace process and has publicly condemned dissident republicans who continue to launch attacks.

But it is inevitable that his own IRA past will be cited during what now promises to be a electrified campaign.

Independent Senator David Norris is expected to clarify his intentions when he appears on RTÉ's Late Late Show this evening. Mr Norris, who pulled out of the presidential race in July, told independent TDs yesterday he wants to re-enter the contest.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil's parliamentary party will meet again on Tuesday to decide whether to allow TDs and Senators to nominate candidates. Fianna Fáil Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú is seeking the support of his colleagues to run as an Independent.

Mr Ó Murchú said today he decided to run because he felt "the actual campaign was turning into a circus". He said he wanted to run as an independent because Fianna Fáil had already decided not to run its own candidate and that decision could not be reversed.