McGuinness: Let’s examine the past of every candidate
PRESIDENTIAL hopeful Martin McGuinness today demanded the past of all his competitors in the race for the Aras be examined.
The Sinn Fein candidate maintained he is the epitome of how things have changed for the better.
Mr McGuinness, who has temporarily stepped down as Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister, said he has made an unique contribution to the peace process in the last 30 years since being first elected as a public representative.
"If people want to examine the past, then let's examine the past of everybody," he said.
"I'm not going to get into recriminating about the past.
"I work for what's happening now, what's happening in the future, building better relationships with unionists and moving forward to continue to steward one of the most successful peace processes in the world today."
Facing fresh questions over his time as a paramilitary commander, Mr McGuinness said he had never hidden his involvement in the IRA.
"I've been very upfront and said that when I was a young person on the streets of Derry the British army came to my city. The RUC were in my city." he said.
"Both the British Army and the RUC murdered people in my city before the IRA fired a shot and I was part of a young generation that decided to stand against them in the Bogside, in Free Derry, and we did stand against them and I make no apologies for that.
"But I do think that when people examine my life and my role in Irish politics they need to examine it in the round."
Mr McGuinness was canvassing at the National Ploughing Championships in Athy, Co Kildare, where he shook hands with Independent candidate Sean Gallagher.
Up to 200,000 people are expected to attend the event over the next three days.
The Sinn Fein PR machine was well ahead of the competition, with Vote McGuinness election posters hanging along on poles along the packed country roads.
Mr McGuinness also welcomed former Eurovision winner Dana in to the race, who is trying to secure the 20 signatures needed to secure a nomination.
"I support all those who wish to contest the election and I think life needs to be made easier for those who wish to contest the election," added the Mid Ulster MP.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fail Senator Labhras O Murchu has withdrawn his name as a prospective candidate.
In a statement, Mr O Murchu said he was on course to get the required 20 nominations from both Fianna Fail and Independent Oireachtas members.
The Fianna Fail parliamentary party is meeting to decide its position on the presidential race. The party previously agreed not to field a candidate.
Mr O Murchu said: "Last week, in requesting Fianna Fail, which will not have its own candidate, to allow a free vote to facilitate my entry into the presidential election, I suggested a moratorium of 24 hours, prior to a decision being taken, to allow for a consensus to emerge through consultation.
"This request could not be accommodated.
"Following meetings with Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and speculation in the media about his leadership, I do not wish to prolong uncertainty within Fianna Fail.
"I will not, therefore, continue to seek nominations from individual Fianna Fail Oireachtas members.
"In the absence of such nominations, I could not achieve the 20 nominations required."