The Irish presidential race is looking like a rugby scrum this week with five candidates up front and three wannabes hanging off the sides of the confirmed pack.
And all Irish media outlets are in agreement that the entry of Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness into the race has lit a fire under what was a less than inspiring contest.
Since being formally declared a candidate, the 61-year-old McGuinness has stepped down, at least temporarily, from his role as North Deputy First Minister.
McGuinness said his past as an IRA commander should not have a bearing on whether he becomes president or not.
“Are people saying because I was a member of the IRA in the past that I have no role to play in the future for all the people of Ireland? A number of people in the North who lost loved ones as a result of the actions of the IRA have actually come to me and pledged their support in this campaign,” McGuinness said.
“I am putting myself forward as someone who has made an immense contribution to peace in Ireland, as someone who has empathy with the Irish people at a time of great economic difficulty, and someone who wants to inspire a conversation about a new republic,” added McGuinness, who has stated that he wants to be a president for all the people living on the island.
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McGuiness said that, as president, he would support the Garda Siochana “one hundred percent” and also meet Queen Elizabeth as head of state if the occasion arose.
McGuinness is being seen as a formidable candidate, and a potential rival to opinion poll leaders Michael D Higgins of Labour, and Fine Gael’s Gay Mitchell.
Meanwhile, attempts by singer Dana Rosemary Scallon to enter the race, and erstwhile candidate David Norris to re-enter, were on the ropes after Fianna Fáil this week declined to back any candidate in the race which ends with the Oct. 27 vote.