Race for the Presidency Spotlight


Race for the Presidency

Martin McGuinness would like to be the next president of Ireland. Declan Lawn examines what the move means for Sinn Fein.


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Flashing Images. What is it like to go from statesmen are back to book

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the man? From basking in the image of peacemaker north of the border

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to been vilified? As far as I am concerned, Martin McGuinness is a

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terrorist who has stop using his gun. Martin McGuinness has taken a

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battering in his campaign to be president of the republic. Go home,

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Martin. This is Chinatown, the Irish Republic. You do not

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understand it. Tonight, we look back on Martin McGuinness's

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campaign for the presidency of the republic. Was it a mistake or a

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masterstroke? I get a warm reception whenever I go. Feeding

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the polls are wrong? I certainly South Lebanon. Irish troops had

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been here on and off for 23 years trying to keep a fragile peace

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between hostile factions. They have lost 47 soldiers here in that time

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and to date, there President is coming to say thanks. It is Mary

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McAleese's last foreign trip as President of the Republic. In two

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days' time, the Poles will open. Whoever wins will have a tough act

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to follow. -- polls. Mary McAleese set out to build bridges and in her

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14 year ten year at is what she has done. She stood with the Queen at a

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memorial service in a Flanders there to honour Irishmen who died

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in the world wars. Men who had until then effectively been written

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out of Irish history. In her second term she and her husband began a

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close and fruitful engagement with a northern loyalists. -- nor the

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loyalists. An impressive record, but her defining moment came

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towards their end of her presidency. One of my most memorable times was

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the visit of the Queen and the well family. A very happy and healing

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time. History shifted into a different kind of Mode, a mode of

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partnership that set a different scene for the future. I was happy

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about that. The Queen's visit was proof that Ireland had changed

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during Mary McAleese's 10 years. But the presidency has changed as

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well. Part of of Mary McAleese's presidency shows that it is a

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position of will power were. The question for her successor is how

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do you follow that? Several weeks ago Sinn Fein took the view that

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one of their number had what it takes to try. Martin McGuinness was

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persuaded to run for President of the Republic. The Bogside, Derry. A

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send off rally for Martin McGuinness in his Irish

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Presidential campaign. Plenty of marches have set off from here over

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the decades. But none has aspired to end in Aras an Uachtarain, the

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seat of the President of the Republic of Ireland. To some here,

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it's all come out of the blue. was as surprised as anybody else

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when the announcement was made. I did not think it was part of what

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they wanted to do. He had been to the White House, Downing Street, he

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has been everywhere. He is personable on the doorsteps and

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they did not have anyone to match that. But why run a tall? Perhaps

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because Sinn Fein want to become a voice North and South of the border.

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Here at the GPO in Dublin you can still see the bullet holes on the

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walls from the uprisings. If Martin McGuinness wins, he will be

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addressing a public from outside this building. It is a winner-win

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election. -- win-win. I think the campaign is about Irish unity and

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identifying new grounds and moving on to new ground, particularly

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throughout the island. It seems to be going down well. I am deeply

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honoured that such a huge crowd has come to send me off on my journey

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around Ireland's 32 counties. Martin McGuinness will be trying to

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keep sell himself as a statesman. - - sell himself. These people are

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traitors. Martin McGuinness will argue that like Mary McAleese he

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has the capacity to move history on. But from the outset of his campaign

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it is history that is the problem. These days getting to Dublin is

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quick and easy, unless you are planning to be president. For

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Martin McGuinness the road so far has been a rocky one. In a radio

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debate early in the campaign the tone was set. This man says he is

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not a member of the IRA. That is not true. Who is the true Martin

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McGuinness? Tell the people! It is 10 days into the presidential

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campaign and I am on my way to one of the live television debate. At

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this early stage in the race it seems to be game on for Martin

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McGuinness and Sinn Fein. He is second in the polls with the

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potential for his support to grow. At this point in time, things are

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unpredictable. Nobody knows where the electric lights, so you get the

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sense a good performance here tonight for a slip up could make or

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break Martin McGuinness's chances, and the chances of other candidates.

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That is how unpredictable it is. But one thing is certain in the

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debate tonight, there are bound to be questions about Martin

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McGuinness's IRA past. He says he left the 1974, but Ho's Vincent

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Brown is not buying it and he makes it clear. Can I refer you to a few

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books that have made the point. This book here by Patrick Bishop

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and Eamonn Mallie which is sympathetic to you in some regards.

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They say you were a member of the IRA in all that time. This book

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says you are a member of the IRA. The biography of you, it goes into

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it some considerable detail about your membership of the IRA. I am

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not finished. All these people say you were in that irate in this

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period. Had come will be wrong? because some people jump to

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conclusions. Quite a few of those authors you have identified are

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completely hostile to Sinn Fein. Martin McGuinness's IRA past has

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dominated his campaign. One person in the DUP made a joke to me. He

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said that Martin is coming down here and it will be like Mother

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Teresa coming. Can you understand why people are interested in your

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past? Well, as far as I am concerned, there had been agendas

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in the cause of this campaign. There are a minority of people who

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are critics and they are focusing on issues that I have no

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responsibility for at all. As the officer commanding the Derry part

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of the IRA, can you say the bombing. In the near future in a response to

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public demand? We always take into consideration up the feelings of

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the people of Derry. So what was Martin McGuinness responsible for

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during the Troubles? His exact relationship with the IRA has been

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a source of controversy throughout the conflict.

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Martin McGuinness served two prison sentences for IRA membership, both

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in the Republic of Ireland. In the Special Criminal Court in Dublin in

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1973, he announced: "I am a member of Oglaigh na Heireann and I am

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very very proud of it." A decade later in an interview with the BBC

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he seemed to want to put clear blue water between himself and the IRA.

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Whoever said I was a member of the IRA? Are you saying that? You have

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been named as a member. I never said that.

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Then in 2003, Martin McGuinness told the Saville Inquiry into

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Bloody Sunday that he was in the IRA, but that his IRA career had

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ended in the early 1970s. After 1974, he says, he was a politician.

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Many find that claim to be implausible. Most observers and

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commentators are Claire in their view that Mr McGuinness's

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involvement in the IRA did not end in 1974. He held every major

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position. He was Chief of Staff, head of Northern Command. I spoke

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to arms suppliers who met him aboard. A everyone knows he was the

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senior member of the IRA or otherwise the British would not

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have been speaking to him in the 1990s and up until he was in the

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Assembly. You said you left the IRA in the early 70s, how comes you had

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so much influence on that organisation if you were not in it?

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Well, because I have never hidden the fact I was in their IRA in the

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early 1970s. I think I have credibility within republicanism. I

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have never distance myself on the IRA and was always at the forefront

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during the course of the conflict of Republican politics. So, having

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given contradictory statements in the past about his relationship to

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the IRA, how credible is it that he left the organisation in 1974? I

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went to visit Dennis Bradley he was instrumental in setting up a link

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between the IRA and British 1970s rather than an activist of

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Martin McGuinness became asked that are just in the late 1970s rather

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than an activist. He became the chief negotiator and all of that.

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But Denis Bradley believes there may be another reason why Martin

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McGuinness appears ready to deny parts of his past. There's a real

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difficulty which is that if he talks about being in the IRA after

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1974 he is in a situation which is subject to arrest. He has to keep

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saying, I wasn't there even after what he already admitted to the

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Saville tribunal. It's the kind of ambiguity that the peace process in

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Northern Ireland has come to accommodate. But the political

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establishment in the Republic doesn't seem so forgiving. In

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Northern Ireland, people from across the political divide seem to

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have come to terms with the idea of Martin McGuinness is Deputy First -

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- Deputy First Minister. They may not accept his past but they are

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mostly willing to live with it. Eoghan Harris is a former Workers'

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party activist, newspaper columnist, and a longstanding critic of Sinn

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Fein and Martin McGuinness. In many ways, he feels hard done by and it

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is causing Northern nationalists to feel as if they are unwanted in the

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Republic. It is not that. It is just that we feel we just do not

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have to do business with Martin McGuinness because of his history.

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Because we do not have to do business with them, we do not want

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to. I say to him, go home, Martin. This is Chinatowns. The Irish

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Republic, you do not understand it. Throughout the campaign, opinions

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like that have been writ large across sections of the southern

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press. And in some places North of the border, they've caused

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resentment. A lot of people in Northern Ireland were angry with

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the reaction of the South. There is a strange paradox in Irish north-

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south relationships. We love each other and take each other. -- hate

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each other. Writer and broadcaster Eamon Dunphy believes that

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McGuinness is the victim of an orchestrated campaign to discredit

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him. The establishment went into the defence because of the reaction.

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The prospect of having a Sinn Fein president has a little

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uncomfortable for the Irish establishment. They don't want

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Martin McGuinness there. In the north, people seem willing to

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accept your past. In the south, that doesn't seem to be the case.

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Is that right? No. On the ground around the country, I am getting a

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phenomenal reaction. Do you think the polls are wrong, you will do

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better than the suggest? I would better than the suggest? I would

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think so. It is quite clear to anyone who studies the reaction to

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my involvement in the election, not just from the establishment parties

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but some elements within the media who have a vested interest. Martin

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McGuinness isn't the first candidate from North of the border

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to have had his background scrutinised in this way. In 1997,

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Mary McAleese's campaign for presidency came under a barrage of

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criticism after leaked documents suggested her support for Sinn Fein.

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For a time it looked as if the revelations might threaten her

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campaign. In the end she was forced to make her position clear. Did she

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ever vote for Sinn Fein? I have never done that. A lot has changed

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here in 14 years. When she was a candidate, she had to make clear

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that she had never even voted for Sinn Fein. Now, a man who has been

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in prison for IRA membership is running to be her successor. But

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the key difference between Mary McAleese and Martin McGuinness was

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that she was able to quickly and credibly distance herself from

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Republican violence. A distinction that, for the victims of that

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violence, makes all the difference in the world. I want justice for my

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father. I believe that you know the names of the killers of my father.

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The McGuinness campaign has been affected by the voices of people

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whose relatives were murdered by the IRA. Journalists persisting

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with questions about the past can be brushed off to an extent, but

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when voters stop you in the street, as happened in Athlone two weeks

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ago, it's a different matter. have given an honest account of it

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and my sympathy is with you and your family. I would like to say

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that before there is any reconciliation, there has to be

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truth. Absolutely. The bodies were produced by the relations and the

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Irish public is sector its stomach of the parade of dead soldiers and

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Dada. -- garda. There's no doubt that for some, Martin McGuinness's

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run for President has re-opened old wounds. My dad was a boxing coach.

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Austin Stack's father, Brian, was a prison officer in Portlaoise Jail.

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In 1983 when off duty, he was shot in the back of the head by the IRA.

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He survived, but with horrendous injuries. After he was discharged

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from hospital, his wife and three young sons did their best to care

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for him at home. He looks like a completely different man. Paralysed

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from the neck down and badly brain- damaged. Brian Stack died 18 months

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later from the injuries he sustained in the shooting. We did

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try to get on with life but this was difficult for us. I have no

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problem with him running for election but I have a duty to tell

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him how this affected my family. I am prepared to move on and have

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offered him my forgiveness but he has not offered needed dignity of

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saying sorry for what is organisation but to my father.

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Martin McGuinness says he was a peacemaker, but he was instrumental

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in stopping the kind of murders that your family suffered. I would

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suggest he was not a peacemaker at all. I would suggest John Hume and

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David Trimble and the peacemakers. They were the people who gave up so

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much to bring Martin McGuinness and his organisation and from the cold.

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As far as I am concerned, Martin McGuinness is just a terrace to a

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stop using his gun. -- terrorist. Martin McGuinness has condemned the

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murder of Brian Stack, and denied any knowledge of who might have

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carried it out. But it remains the case that some victims of IRA

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violence find his campaign for the Presidency hard to accept. What do

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you say to those who have lost people through IRA violence that

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believe that you are running for President is Cas are insensitive?

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Some people will find it very difficult and will find it -- be

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unable to support me. I fully respect their views. There are

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others who do support me and have been victims and their conflict and

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people within the Unionist community who have gone on radio

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and the North saying that they are supportive of my right to be

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involved in this election. They wish me well. Martin McGuinness's

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supporters point out that most voters are willing to look beyond

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his IRA past when considering him as a candidate. Martin McGuinness

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claimed he left the IRA in the early Seventies. People were

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worried that he is someone who is saying something that is simply

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untrue? Crass in my view. -- only the political class in my view. I

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do not believe he left the IRA. I don't care when he left. What I

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care about is what became of the IRA. It no longer exists. He had to

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stay around to be influential. Sheriff Street area of North Inner

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City Dublin. Paddy Keogh is a former championship boxer who's

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been training young fighters in this gym for 40 years. Box, Box!

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Martin McGuinness visited the club whilst on the campaign trail.

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was lovely for him to come into the club. I would love to see him get

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in. Of course I'll vote for him. Why? I think he is an honest man

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and I think he could unify Ireland. There is a lot of controversy about

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his IRA past. Lots of people would not know about it. I would not

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think they would think that way. The political climate for Sinn Fein

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and Martin McGuinness in the south could hardly be more favourable.

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The economy has turned upside down and because of that, so has the

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political status quo. 14% unemployment. At least a further

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3.6 billion euros in budget cuts to be announced in December. For the

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former governing party, Fianna Fail, the bubble has burst. But Sinn Fein

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is on the up. Poll research suggests that support for the party

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is growing in the South amongst young people, amongst men, and in

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more economically disadvantaged areas. In other words, in places

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just like this. Is it fair to say there's a lot of anger with the

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traditional politics, with Fianna Fail and traditional parties here?

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There is an anti-establishment anger. People are losing jobs and

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feared that if they lose their jobs, they will lose their homes. There

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is an anger out there that Sinn Fein has successfully tapped into.

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That anti-establishment tactic continued in last night's final

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presidential TV debate, when Martin McGuinness went on the offensive,

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attacking frontrunner Sean Gallagher for his alleged

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involvement with Fianna Fail fundraising. Today, Sean Gallagher

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said that it amounted to a Sinn Fein attempt at political

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assassination, and disputed the facts of the allegation. But

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McGuinness seemed to land a blow, and he'll be hoping it helps.

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Before last night's debate, the polls suggested McGuinness was

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ahead of David Norris, Mary Davis, Dana and his fiercest critic Gay

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Mitchell. But he was significantly behind Sean Gallagher and Michael D

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Higgins. He says it'll be different on the day. I do not actually think

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the polls are reflecting the level of support that is there for me. It

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will be a better as a surprise come 27th October. On the face of it,

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Martin McGuinness's claim that he is well received on the streets

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seemed to stand up on the day we joined him at one campaign stop in

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County Wicklow. There were plenty of well wishers. Voters we spoke to

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were divided, but on the whole the view of him seemed positive. Martin

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McGuinness seems to me my front runner. He seems to be trying to

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get jobs and he has done a lot of good for the North of Ireland.

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not a member of Sinn Fein but they will be voting by him. I do not

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agree with him going for the President of Ireland and hopefully

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he will not get anywhere. In the current climate, there is a strong

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possibility he may succeed. I do not know whether that is a good

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thing are not. But it now appears it would take a huge political

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upset for Martin McGuinness to be elected. Nonetheless, for Sinn Fein,

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he may not need to win for the party to chalk it up as a success.

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We have opened up the idea that that some stage, before too long,

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Sinn Fein could hold the high office for which he is campaigning.

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That is a break through and it is the idea that instead of just being

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a marginal party, they could be a party that holds one of the more

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prominent high offices in the south. That has now become credible.

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week at Hillsborough castle, Mary McAleese made her final visit to

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Northern Ireland as President of the Republic. In her speech, she

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reflected on how far Ireland, north and south, has come in the last 14

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years. Now we know where we're going, the means of transport and

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evident. They are a quality, a mutual respect, partnership,

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dialogue. Their destination is very obvious - peaceful stop -- piece ft

0:26:370:26:40

-- peace. Ireland has changed utterly during the tenure of

0:26:400:26:43

President McAleese. And in that time, it seems Martin McGuinness

0:26:430:26:45

has changed too throughout this campaign he has taken positions

0:26:450:26:48

that Republicans once would have found unthinkable. He has said that

0:26:480:26:51

today, the legitimate army of Ireland is the Irish Defence Forces,

0:26:510:26:54

not the IRA. He has said he would meet British royalty something that

0:26:540:26:57

was perhaps inevitable after the success of the Queen's visit this

0:26:570:27:04

year. Perhaps most significantly for Republicans, he has even

0:27:040:27:09

accepted some IRA killings as murder. He may have been speaking

0:27:090:27:12

in a personal capacity on all of these points, but coming from

0:27:120:27:22
0:27:220:27:26

I think those are things that Sinn Fein will be unable to roll back

0:27:260:27:36
0:27:360:27:40

from. If Martin McGuinness does not win on Thursday the big question

0:27:400:27:44

will be whether he has been damaged by this campaign. Whether there is

0:27:440:27:51

a sense in which he will be coming back north to his job as Deputy

0:27:510:27:55

First Minister with his tail between his legs. So far at least

0:27:550:28:03

the Unionist politicians have made little of McGuiness's campaign.

0:28:030:28:09

Unionism, people give it is nothing to do with us. But they are

0:28:090:28:13

learning with - man within nationalism that there are

0:28:130:28:19

different views and attitudes. think the DUP, it is not in their

0:28:190:28:27

interests to reopen these issues. They are in government with Sinn

0:28:270:28:33

Fein. At within republicanism at the campaign is likely to be sold

0:28:330:28:41

as another success for step in a Sinn Fein's success in the south. -

0:28:410:28:49

- successful. Or people think he will be coming back with his tail

0:28:490:28:55

between his legs if he fails? plunged into this campaign and has

0:28:550:29:02

raised the profile of Sinn Fein to levels that it has never been to.

0:29:020:29:05

So the likelihood is that Martin McGuinness will return to his job

0:29:050:29:08

as Deputy First Minister next week, and his Presidential campaign will

0:29:080:29:11

be chalked up to experience. He has discovered, perhaps to his surprise,

0:29:110:29:16

there are some in the south who just cant see beyond his past.

0:29:160:29:19

Perhaps it's another irony of the peace process that it's his former

0:29:190:29:29
0:29:290:29:31

enemies north of the border who can. I had been at pains to stress that

0:29:310:29:37

I draw comparisons between some of my critics and the relationship I

0:29:370:29:43

have with Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson, for example. I think

0:29:430:29:46

Martin McGuinness wants to be the next President of Ireland. Declan Lawn examines what the move means for Sinn Fein and if Martin McGuinness's IRA past is still an issue.


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