for sale serif;”>Sinéad Williams asks Martin McGuinness about his bid for the presidency
illness serif;”>Martin McGuinness is no stranger to controversy. His presidential campaign has been littered with questions regarding his involvement with the IRA and accusations regarding incidents which occurred during the Troubles. However, he feels that the people of Ireland will look at the contributions he has made throughout his life, from his involvement in the IRA, to his contribution to the peace process, to his role as deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, when making up their minds about him.
He commented at a recent debate that there was a lot of anger on the streets at how he has been treated by the media, but says that he is “happy to let the people decide” if he has been treated unfairly.
McGuinness feels that the best qualities he can bring to the position of president are leadership, commitment, compassion and patriotism. “I have struggled all of my life and have been involved in some of most important negotiations that Ireland has seen in a century… Like the rest of the people of Ireland, I get angry when I consider the way the economy of the country has been destroyed by people who are far removed from the concepts of patriotism, equality and citizenship which I believe to be central components of any nation.”
He emphasises that the next president will have to give leadership to the Irish people through one of the most difficult periods in our history. He says that change is badly needed, as many people are in despair and are losing hope. “They worry about so much power being handed away by the government. Tens of thousands of our young people are leaving.”
Who are your favourite band or musician?
Christy Moore and Frances Black
If your campaign could have a theme song what would it be?
Just say yes – Snow Patrol
If you could have 3 famous people alive or dead over for dinner who would they be?
Nelson Mandela, Constance Markievicz and Jesus.
What superpower would you chose if you could have one?
It would be a fantastic to have the power to soar and fly like an eagle
McGuinness says that while he would be elected by voters in the 26 counties, he would consider himself president of the Irish nation – all 32 counties and the global Irish community. The issue of extending voting rights to Irish citizens across the island of Ireland and to the diaspora is important to him. “Former captain of the Tyrone football team, Peter Canavan…made the point that in the 2003 All-Ireland final when Tyrone played Armagh, each of those 30 players were as Irish as anyone else on the island, but not one of them had a vote.I would hope that in seven years that this will have changed.”
The decade before us is one filled with important commemorative dates, according to McGuinness, who would use the next ten years from 2012 as a Decade of Reconciliation, if elected. “This would celebrate the diverse nature of our society, the peace we now have, and commemorate all of the events of 100 years ago which defined the direction of Ireland to the present generation. I would be very proud to be a republican in Áras an Uachtaráin for the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising.”
McGuinness says that if he is elected president, two of his key priorities would be to see the re-unification of Ireland and to see the promise of the 1916 Proclamation delivered. “I believe in a real Republic where citizens have rights and the phrase cherishing all of the children of the nation equally means something. I believe that the Proclamation sets the standard by which modern Ireland must be judged and I think more and more people are coming to that view because of the difficulties the country is facing. The fact is that re-unification makes political and economic sense.”
He believes that political leaders should offer people a better future. “I believe that people want a President who does new beginnings – that’s what our country needs and that’s what I have done and that is what I will do.”