McGuinness: My heart goes out to families of British soldiers and RUC lost in Troubles
Presidential bid is launched with Derry send-off
Martin McGuinness made a symbolic start to his presidential campaign last night with a parade from his family home to Free Derry Corner in the Bogside.
In a speech at the Londonderry icon, he continued on his theme of showing empathy with victims of all sides during the Troubles, particularly his former enemies.
He said his heart went out to the families of British soldiers, UDR and RUC men and innocent victims who lost loved ones in the Troubles.
"I am very conscious that in this crowd there are many people who lost loved ones as a result of the conflict and still, even after all those years, my heart goes out to all of them.
"I am also conscious of many British soldiers, members of the RUC, members of the UDR and my heart goes out to all their relatives."
A large crowd had gathered for the send-off rally to mark the official beginning of his campaign to become President of Ireland.
Accompanied by his wife, sons, daughters and grandchildren, Mr McGuinness left his home in Westland Terrace and walked behind a banner which read 'Civil Rights to a New Republic' carried by civil rights leaders from the city, including John Kelly from the Bloody Sunday families.
Invited guests on the platform to endorse Mr McGuinness's campaign included Derry City FC manager Stephen Kenny, Derry GAA manager John Brennan, members of the Bloody Sunday families, hospital campaigners the Pink Ladies and civil rights veteran Paddy 'Bogside' Doherty, as well as human rights solicitor Paddy MacDermott and prominent businessman Jim Roddy.
Most tellingly, he was also supported by the presence of Presbyterian minister Rev David Latimer, who provoked a storm when he spoke to praise Mr McGuinness as a "great leader" at the Sinn Fein ard fheis in Belfast.
Outspoken Catholic cleric Fr Michael Canny was also on the platform.
Wishing Mr McGuinness well on his campaign, Paddy Doherty added: "The one thing I can't do for you is cast a vote for you because the Irish government have made it clear they do not want us to have a say in who becomes the President of Ireland."
When Mr McGuinness stepped onto the podium he remarked how humble and honoured he was to see the larget turnout of people.
He told the crowd that making peace was even more difficult than making war, because there was a need to make tough decisions and compromises.