With campaigning in full swing for all the candidates on the ballot paper for the presidential election, Martin McGuinness’ campaign bus stopped off in Castlebar last week, where the Sinn Féin candidate was greeted by a large number of supporters outside the Welcome Inn Hotel. The Derry native worked his way through his supporters before sitting down to face the local media in preparation for a walkabout through the streets of the town, meeting the public.
McGuinness, whose past has been under more scrutiny than any other candidate in the field owing to his past involvement with the IRA, once again owned up to his past and his reasons for joining after seeing what had happened in his hometown saying, “So as a young man I joined the IRA. I have no shame in that. What else could a young man do? In Dublin they burned down the British Embassy, we didn’t have a British Embassy in Derry.”
McGuinness is keen to move the debate away from that time towards the work he has done in brokering the peace agreement in the north and his work as Deputy First Minister in the Northern Assembly in bringing jobs to Northern Ireland. “On the day my candidacy was announced I was involved in securing over 500 jobs from the New York Stock exchange to the north.” McGuinness stated that his record of delivery since taking office in the North is what people should be concentrating on in this election. “I’m standing in the context of someone who has delivered, not just in the context of the Northern negotiations but also in terms of the 140,000 jobs that Peter Robinson and I have brought to workers in the north.”
If elected president, McGuinness said that he would have no problem working with An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and has a good relationship with him. He also pointed out that he had a good working relationship with Dr Ian Paisley and following that Peter Robinson when only a few years ago people didn’t think that would have been possible. McGuinness was also keen to mark himself out as different from the other politicians who are looking to win the election saying, “The people have to ask themselves which of the presidential candidates has delivered. People have to ask themselves who became the fat cats in the country at a time of mass emigration when families are struggling to pay their mortgages and put bread on the table”.