Don’t focus on my IRA past, I’m a peacemaker – McGuinness
Martin McGuinness has insisted that voters will not focus on his IRA past in the Irish presidential contest and will instead judge him on his record as a peacemaker.
As the Sinn Fein veteran formally informed the Stormont Assembly of his decision to temporarily step down as Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister to bid for the presidency, he made clear he did not intend to be sidetracked by what he described as a "media fixation" with his time as a paramilitary commander.
The Mid Ulster MP said voters had no such preoccupation and claimed he had already received support for his campaign from victims of IRA violence and individuals within the wider unionist/Protestant community.
Mr McGuinness confirmed that Sinn Fein Education Minister John O'Dowd would take on his role in the Office of the Deputy First Minister from tomorrow until next month's election.
"The reality is that people know my past," he said.
"I have put myself before the electorate on countless occasions since 1982 and particularly since 1997 when I was first elected as MP for Mid Ulster.
"In election after election people are well aware (of my past) and have come out in their droves to vote for me knowing that I am absolutely dedicated and committed to a new way forward and I live in the here and now, I am concerned about the future, I am concerned about the economic circumstances within which they live, I am concerned to provide a safe future for their children, a better future and never to see the situation slip back into conflict.
"I have answered all these questions in the past, I have no concerns whatsoever about going into this election campaign, I stand on my record.
"And I have to say, I don't think I would have been invited to the Oval Office on three occasions to meet with three American presidents, or to Johannesburg to meet with Nelson Mandela, or to Brussels to meet with the president of the European Union and indeed many other countries throughout the world if people thought that my credentials in relation to the search for peace were in any way in doubt."