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McConville family fury at McGuinness choice for Aras bid

SINN Fein is preparing itself for an onslaught from opponents after selecting ex-IRA commander Martin McGuinness as its presidential candidate.

The North's Deputy First Minister is set to be formally endorsed by Sinn Fein tomorrow.

However, critics have already begun flagging the Mid-Ulster MP's military past, with a relative of Jean McConville yesterday, accusing McGuinness of having "blood on his hands".

The mother-of-10 was abducted, murdered and buried by the IRA during the Troubles.


Her devastated family, who only recovered the body in 2003, have slammed Mr Jean McGuinness for choosing to run for the Aras.

"The presidency is a very prestigious office and clearly somebody will blood on their hands could not assume such a role," said Jean McConville's son-in-law, Seamus McKendry.

And a campaigner for IRA victims, Willie Frazer, has also vowed to oppose McGuinness's campaign.

"The people of the Republic of Ireland should not vote for a man who ran the IRA campaign against innocent Protestants in Northern Ireland and against his own people in the nationalist community," he said.

"We will now seriously consider picketing events being run by Sinn Fein/IRA in the run up to this election. We believe it is our duty to let people know what they are voting for and who they are voting for."

Sinn Fein advisers are already putting in place the party's PR strategy, with the 61-year-old expected to receive further attacks from opponents over his IRA past.

And the party has already begun contacting Oireachtas members with the view to securing their support for Mr McGuinness's nomination.

With 17 TDs and senators, Mr McGuinness is three supporters short of the 20 nominations needed to secure a place on the ticket.

However the Herald can reveal that Dublin North Central TD Finian McGrath -- once a supporter of David Norris -- has agreed to sign the MP's nomination papers.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has hailed his party colleague as the potential "people's President".


"I believe that this election will give Martin the platform to continue the work he has led in the North and in the peace process, and to put it on a national footing," he said.

Sources in Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fail all admitted today that McGuinness's entry has shaken up what was seen as a dull presidential race.

"It's an absolute bombshell," one Government source told the Herald.

McGuinness -- who admitted he was the Provisional IRA's second-in-command in Derry during Bloody Sunday -- is expected to address a press conference tomorrow.