This is the Republic, not Northern Ireland
Our country's democratic history, spanning 90 years, will be tarnished if Martin McGuinness wins the race to the Aras, writes Ronan Fanning
'This is the Republic of Ireland 2011 -- not Northern Ireland." The Taoiseach will forgive me if, by way of introduction, I adapt this line from his celebrated speech on church-state relations because it sums up the reasons why Martin McGuinness is unfit to be President.
But let me first acknowledge his achievements as Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. His political skills -- tact, patience, shrewdness, good judgment, and good humour -- in establishing a successful relationship first with Ian Paisley and then with Peter Robinson have ensured the smooth working of the Executive. The most striking feature of the annual meeting of the British-Irish Association in Cambridge only a fortnight ago was the unanimity of the conviction that there was no perceptible threat to the stability of the settlement. Although that was before McGuinness threw his hat into the ring, the relative calm of the reaction in Northern Ireland endorses that conviction.
Why if I am so certain about McGuinness's unsuitability for the Presidency should I lavish such praise on him? Precisely because I believe he is a formidable candidate who, if he is to be denied victory, must be opposed clinically and constructively on the grounds which will be most damaging to his prospects of success.