Sinn Fein slams Irish establishment's ‘hissy fit’ over McGuinness candidacy
Parts of the Irish establishment are throwing “a hissy fit” because of Martin McGuinness's decision to run for president in the Republic, Sinn Fein has claimed.
Party vice president Mary Lou McDonald said the reaction demonstrated that some in the Republic believe it is “the only legitimate entity, and the ones up the road in the North are really a nuisance and an inconvenience”.
Speaking at her party's reception at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool last night, she said Mr McGuinness should be judged on his role in the peace process as well as IRA history.
Meanwhile, opinion polls put Mr McGuinness in a strong position in the race despite widespread criticism of his candidacy in the weekend’s Press.
The Deputy First Minister, who has temporarily stepped down from his Executive role, was in third place in two Sunday newspaper polls.
But 67% of those questioned in a Sunday Independent/Quantum Research telephone poll of 500 households said it was too soon for “a man of violence to be president, even if he has embraced the democratic process”.
And 74% thought Mr McGuinness’s “violent past relevant to the presidential campaign”.
Elsewhere, the Irish Mail on Sunday interviewed relatives of IRA victim Frank Hegarty, shot dead in 1986 for being an informer. His family claim that the 45-year-old was lured to his death from England.
Mr McGuinness has repeatedly denied that he promised Mr Hegarty would be safe if he returned to Londonderry.
“We have no party-political agenda — but given our family’s experience of Martin McGuinness, we hope and pray the people of Ireland will see through the facade too,” the family told the newspaper after two decades of silence.
The Fine Gael presidential candidate Gay Mitchell also attacked the Sinn Fein hopeful.
Mr McGuinness responded that he had no intention of engaging in “petty attacks on fellow candidates for the Aras”.
“I have fought many election campaigns and I have never engaged in negative campaigning or in petty attacks on fellow candidates,” he said.
Martin McGuinness polled 16% in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post/Red C tracking poll compared to Trinity senator David Norris at 21% and Labour’s Michael D Higgins at 18%. A Sunday Independent/Quantum Research poll put Mr McGuinness in third place at 15%, with Senator Norris leading with 29% and Michael D Higgins on 17%.