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McGuinness would be 'good' president, says brother of Claudy bomb victim

By Fionnan Sheahan and Adrian Rutherford

The brother of an eight-year-old girl murdered in an IRA bombing today said he believed Martin McGuinness would make a good Irish president.

Mark Eakin, who lost his sister Kathryn in the Claudy atrocity, said he believed the Sinn Fein man could be “good for Ireland” and was genuinely trying to work towards a better future.

It came amid calls for Mr McGuinness to come clean over his role in IRA terrorism as he formally began his presidential campaign.

He temporarily stood down as Deputy First Minister yesterday, formally passing his office on to Education Minister John O’Dowd.

Mr McGuinness was second in command of the IRA in Derry city when three bombs ripped through Claudy in July 1972.

But speaking this morning, Mr Eakin said it was time to look to the future.

“He could be good for Ireland — I mean that for Ireland north and south,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.

“I’m not saying he has changed his colours, but he has changed his beliefs to a degree from what they were years ago, and he has moved more towards peace and trying to work for peace. I feel he is genuinely trying to work for Ireland — making it a better place while knowing that it’s not going to change to his advantage in the foreseeable future.

“He is trying to reach out a bit and I think we all have to reach out.”

Sinn Fein stunned the political world on Friday by announcing that the former IRA leader turned champion of the peace process would 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 hunger strike in 1981.

Mr McGuinness claimed he had broad support for his presidential bid, including from unionists and IRA murder victims.

He was responding to comments from Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott, who said unionists would feel more comfortable with his candidacy if he disclosed some of his activities with the IRA

“I accept that Tom would be aware of people who would be opposed to me being elected president of Ireland, but Tom needs to realise that sometimes many of the politicians are behind the people,” he told the BBC.

“When I left Aldergrove airport on Saturday morning on my way back from a joint trade mission with Peter Robinson to the United States, quite a number of people from the unionist community came up to me and they wished me well in the election.”

Mr McGuinness said some people within the unionist community have publicly welcomed the fact that he is standing as a candidate.

“They have actually gone as far as to say they would like to see me elected as president of Ireland,” he added.

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