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McGuinness as President? No thanks

One of the first interviews Martin McGuinness gave as a candidate for the Irish Presidency was with RTE. In it he stated that he wanted to be judged on his last two decades in Irish life.  I can fully understand why he would only want a limited examination of his career. The contribution he made to Irish life and death in the earlier part of his career is the reason why he does not want to be treated like any other candidate and be judged on the whole picture.  It is like sitting an exam and then demanding that the examiner only mark you on the last two questions you got right and ignore the other four you got hopelessly wrong.

Yes, we should be pleased and satisfied that he eventually made the journey from violence to politics, but we should not allow Sinn Fein’s flowery rhetoric over the duration of this campaign to delude us into thinking that he and his colleagues are the sole authors of the peace process.

The real authors of the Peace Process were John Hume and Albert Reynolds. It took all their powers of persuasion and influence to bring Adams and McGuinness along the road into constitutional politics. They were slow movers. We should all recall the slow progress, the false starts, the abandoned ceasefires. Yes the Unionists were no sprinters when it came to the peace process, but so too were Sinn Fein and the Provos.

Quiet clearly, as a member of Fianna Fáil, I would not agree with his political outlook, but I can – like others – see and acknowledge that Mr McGuinness has done some good things over the latter stages of his career. I do not condemn everything he has done over the past 12 – 15 years, I just recall and realise that he has done many other things too.  He was a senior figure in a violent and vicious campaign that delayed progress in the North and deepened a divide between communities that he now says he wants to heal. He was a defender of that campaign of violence and terror, a campaign that targeted many people in his own community. It is a campaign that reached across this island and brought criminality and violence into many communities already struggling to cope with deprivation and want.

Senator David Norris has discovered that you cannot cherry-pick your record and expect others not to question your self-serving account – McGuinness will learn that too.  

While McGuinnessess has been particularly careful over recent years in trying to place his past actions and his past attitudes out of public view, there are moments when the mask slips.  We do not have to delve too far back into the past to see instances of this. He was only Sinn Fein’s official candidate a few hours as when he asked at a press conference last Sunday if he condemned the murder of Garda Jerry McCabe. Then we saw the old style Martin McGuinness. He avoided the question, refusing to condemn the brutal 1996 slaying. Possibly he remembered how hard he had tried to get Garda McCabe’s killers released under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement – even though we had been told initially that the IRA were not involved in the attack.  Shortly afterwards he was contacting journalists to tell them that he did actually condemn the murder. Perhaps his spin doctors had realised the damage his original old style, old school reply could make if it was not changed.

So which one is the real Martin McGuinness, which one do we get as President if we vote for him?

I want a President who represents all that is best about the modern, peaceful and forward looking Ireland, not a candidate whose main purpose for running it to help Sinn Fein increase in the polls.

Martin McGuinness and Sinn Fein want this election to be just about them. We have to ensure that does not happen. This election must be about picking a President who can build on the achievements of Mary McAleese, not one who drags the dark days and old ways back into today.

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