Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: McGuinness's past may be his downfall

As Martin McGuinness continues his campaign to become the next Irish President, he is finding that the past - and his role in the IRA's terrorism - will not go away no matter how much he protests about the media's insistent questioning on the subject.

He is also discovering that there is a nuanced difference between his role in this part of the island and the role he wants to assume.

There is no doubt that he was the right man in the right place at the right time of the Northern Ireland peace process.

And it would be churlish to deny that he played a pivotal role in bringing republicanism in from the cold and forming the current coalition Government at Stormont.

Of course, there are many people here who remain implacably opposed to all he stands for and with justification.

No-one believes that he left the IRA in 1974 as he maintains because it is obvious that he carried enormous influence with the terror body right up to decommissioning and beyond.

Sinn Fein's entry into Government with the DUP, the UUP, SDLP and Alliance was a compromise solution and, whatever the reservations, it was seen as much better than what had gone before. It seems strange that a South Tyrone MLA, Arlene Foster of the DUP, should now be pressing him about what he knew of the Enniskillen bombing. She has been in Government with him long enough to ask him that question directly before now.

But Mr McGuinness's qualities, which were so important here, are viewed differently in the Republic.

Anyone elected as president of what is a sovereign nation has to be seen as non-divisive and carrying no baggage - and certainly no terrorist credentials.

It is entirely proper that he faces the intensity of scrutiny currently directed towards him in the Republic.

The role he is seeking is in no way comparable to the role he has temporarily surrendered and that may prove his undoing.

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