Presidential hopeful Martin McGuinness has described himself as ‘a peacemaker who can be trusted’ – after he received the green light to run for election.
McGuinness has been officially endorsed by the Sinn Fein leadership to contest next month’s election in the Republic.
The former IRA member has already provoked widespread attention with his decision to enter the contest to replace Mary McAleese in the Aras.
But McGuinness is adamant that he can unite people in Ireland despite his past and has an obligation to ‘heal wounds’.
“Times have changed and I am now seen as a peacemaker who can be trusted,” claimed McGuinness after he was formally nominated to run as a candidate.
“This election needs to be about new beginnings. I can do new beginnings.”
“I would see the presidency as being central in the unfinished business of the peace process, namely national reconciliation.
“I know there will be a very strong temptation for people to drag us back to the past but I am of the here and now and I am someone who is very much focused on the future.
“People of course know of my past and they also know of my deep commitment to peace and peace-building. I want to continue to reach out directly to those affected by the actions of republicans in the course of conflict.
“Republicans, including myself, have an obligation to help heal the wounds inflicted by our actions.”
As he prepares to join the campaign trail on Monday, McGuinness has temporarily quit his position as Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister.
He revealed after the meeting of the Sinn Fein leadership that he had received good luck messages from all sides of the community in the North, including three Loyalist politicians.
“I have every confidence that the institutions will not be destabilized, that the work will continue, that the peace process will remain secure,” he said.
“In fact I think it will be strengthened by the fact that I am now participating in this very important election.
“If Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson were prepared to work with him then I think that is the greatest testament of how political life has changed, how the conflict has changed in the North and how people see me very much as a peace-maker, but more importantly they see me as a peace-maker that can be trusted.”
Derry born McGuinness has also vowed to draw down only $50,000 Euro of his near $350,000 salary if elected and plans to donate the rest to charity.