Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has said that Sinn Fein’s presidential candidate Martin McGuinness might have some difficulty selling himself to the Irish people as a “unifying force”.

Speaking to the Irish Times at Kildare’s National Ploughing Championships on Wednesday Martin said the Irish people wanted “the presidency to be a unifying force, unifying all strands and all traditions within the island of Ireland.

“The unifying capacity is very important and maybe Martin may have difficulties in satisfying that particular agenda.”

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The Fianna Fail leader also spoke about the party’s decision to decline from nominating a candidate. He described it as being deeply challenging for the party.

He said “In the aftermath of a very, very, difficult election there will be a lot of internal soul searching that is only to be understandable and in the context of the decision not to contest equally understandable that there would be diverse opinion across the party membership on that decision.”

Martin said he was focusing on rebuilding the party and suggested there was room for different options within Fianna Fail.
“I have been saying this for quite some time now: the idea that there is just one person saying something and everybody follows it’s just no longer the case and will no longer be the case,” he explained.

“There will be toleration of diverse views in the parliamentary party and across the country and I have encouraged that.”

Party deputy leader Éamon Ó Cuív, who also attended the Championships, was asked if he believed the party’s decision would be damaging.

Ó Cuív said “Look, that decision has been made and to be quite honest, there is nothing more to be said about that.”

“We have arrived at an agreed decision on this matter, there was unanimity at the meeting on Tuesday and we now move on to issues that are of huge importance to the people of the country.”

“The Fianna Fáil I have ever belonged to, the Fianna Fáil of the members of Fianna Fáil was not a Fianna Fáil of builders and bankers and if that slur, which was cast continuously by the new government, were to do permanent damage in terms of branding, yes of course we would have to look at that issue because it is perpetuating a lie.”

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin