Belfast Telegraph

Martin McGuinness: Only one army in Ireland

Sinn Fein presidential candidate Martin McGuinness says he recognises the Defence Forces as the only legitimate army in the Republic.

The former IRA chief-of-staff said: "As far as I am concerned, the Irish Army are Oglaigh na hEireann".

It comes as Mr McGuinness's republican past continues to be a factor in the presidential campaign, with Fine Gael repeatedly questioning his suitability for the Aras.

In 1973, Mr McGuinness refused to recognise the Republic's Special Criminal Court after being caught with 250lb of explosives and nearly 5,000 rounds of ammunition.

He was sentenced to six months' imprisonment, and declared his then membership of the IRA in court.

Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell has said making Mr McGuinness president, and Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces, "is a very big step".

But yesterday Mr McGuinness acknowledged the Defence Forces was the only Oglaigh na hEireann, and said he stood by the institutions of the State.

"As far as I am concerned the Irish Army are Oglaigh na hEireann and I stand by the forces of this State. And I stand fully square behind both the Garda Siochana and the PSNI in their efforts to apprehend those who would try to plunge us back to the past," he said, while canvassing in Dublin city centre.

He also said he had already "nailed his colours to the mast" and received death threats over standing against the killings of two soldiers at Massereene Barracks in 2009, as well as the murders of PSNI officers Stephen Carroll and Ronan Kerr.

WikiLeaks cables revealed Mr McGuinness received a death threat weeks after he branded dissident republicans "traitors" in the wake of the Massereene killings.

"I will not let anybody down, I want to be a president the people of Ireland will be proud of," he said.

A record seven candidates are vying for the job, including Independent Senator David Norris, former Eurovision winner Dana Rosemary Scallon, Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell, Labour's Michael D Higgins and independent candidates Mary Davis and Sean Gallagher.

The seven candidates will be officially confirmed by a returning officer from the Republic's Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government at 3pm today.

The candidates now go head to head on October 27 with the winner taking over at Aras Uachtarain from Mary McAleese.

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