McGuinness says Army is 'Oglaigh na hEireann'
Published 29/09/2011 | 05:00
SINN Fein presidential candidate Martin McGuinness says he recognises the Defence Forces as the only legitimate army in the State.
The former IRA chief-of-staff said: "As far as I am concerned, the Irish Army are Oglaigh na hEireann." In the past, the IRA has styled itself Oglaigh na hEireann.
His republican past continues to be a factor in the presidential campaign, with Fine Gael repeatedly questioning his suitability for the Aras.
In 1973, Mr McGuinness refused to recognise the Special Criminal Court after being caught with 250lb of explosives and nearly 5,000 rounds of ammunition. He was sentenced to six months' imprisonment, and declared his then membership of the IRA in court.
Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell has said making the Sinn Fein man president, and Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces, "is a very big step".
But yesterday Mr McGuinness acknowledged the Defence Forces was the only Oglaigh na hEireann, and said he stood by the institutions of the State.
"As far as I am concerned the Irish Army are Oglaigh na hEireann and I stand by the forces of this State and I stand fully square behind both the Garda Siochana and the PSNI in their efforts to apprehend those who would try to plunge us back to the past," he said while canvassing in Dublin city centre.
He said he had already "nailed his colours to the mast" and received death threats over condemning the killings of two soldiers at Massereene Barracks in 2009, as well as the murders of PSNI officers Stephen Carroll and Ronan Kerr. Wikileaks cables revealed Mr McGuinness got a death threat after he called dissident republicans "traitors" following the Massereene killings.
"I will not let anybody down, I want to be a president the people of Ireland will be proud of," he said.