McGuinness in final Áras push

Presidential candidate Martin McGuinness pictured arriving on Arranmore at the weekend before islanders cast their ballots yesterday. He was joined by frineds and supporters, including Johnny Walker of the Birmingham Six, and Grainne Mhic Geidigh. (2510MM01)
Presidential candidate Martin McGuinness pictured arriving on Arranmore at the weekend before islanders cast their ballots yesterday. He was joined by frineds and supporters, including Johnny Walker of the Birmingham Six, and Grainne Mhic Geidigh. (2510MM01)

Presidential candidate Martin McGuinness will be making a final push in his bid to be elected to Áras an Uachtárain as voters prepare to go to the polls on Thursday.

Polling opened on the five inhabited islands off the coast of Donegal yesterday and hundreds of islanders are expected to cast their votes over the next few days.

An Aer Corps helicopter brought a ballot box to Inis Bó Finne yesterday before going on to Toraigh. Polling stations were also opened on Gabhla, and Inis Fraoigh.

Mr McGuinness travelled to Árrain Mhór, the largest of the Donegal islands, on Sunday to canvass the 700 would-be voters there.

He was accompanied to the island by friends and supporters, including local Sinn Féin representative, Grainne Mhic Geidhigh, and Johnny Walker of the Birmingham Six.

Speaking after his visit to the island, Mr McGuinness said, as the election day looms, it is now up to the voters.

“The Irish people have a very clear choice to make between candidates standing for parties who wrecked the economy and are now making the people pay through huge cuts and myself as the only candidate who is not part of the political establishment and who will stand up for people,” he said.

The candidate added that if people want a change they should vote for him. “On Thursday the Irish people have a very clear choice in front of them. If they want a President who will stand with the ordinary people of Ireland, a President who has a track record in creating jobs, a President who is not part of a bankrupt political establishment then they will vote for me on Thursday.

“The Irish people don’t want a return to Galway tent politics or a continuation of policies where speculators and bankers are protected and ordinary people punished,” he said.

He also called on voters have the opportunity to bring in a new beginning for Ireland. “I would call on people to make a stand on Thursday. Things can change. This week’s election can be the start of a new beginning for Ireland.

“I will be a President that stands for jobs, fairness and decency. That is what I am asking the people of Ireland to vote for on Thursday,” he said.

Mr McGuinness’ campaign has received support from Derry republicans who crossed the border in recent weeks to join the campaign team. Several hundred republicans left Derry at the weekend to join Mr McGuinness’ campaign.

It is believed that a crowd of more than 200 Sinn Féin activists travelled to a number of areas of Donegal, including Inishowen, Letterkenny, and the Lagan Valley, to hand out leaflets in support of Mr McGuinness’ bid to become president.

Sources close to the campaign have said those efforts are likely to be stepped up tonight as they make a final bid to sway undecided voters.

A number of other Sinn Féin activists from Derry have been on the campaign trail in Kildare for much of the last week.

Meanwhile, Gardaí have said their investigations have found no evidence of criminal damage to Dana Rosemary Scallon’s campaign car.

The investigation was launched after an incident near Limerick last week in which a tyre on the car sustained a blow out.

Dana’s campaign team initially claimed the tyre had been deliberately damaged in an attempt to kill her. Since then, garda forensic collision investigators have said they believe the damage to the tyre was caused by being driven while it was “under inflated” or flat. Polls will open across the country on Thursday morning and counting will begin on Friday morning. Votes cast in Donegal will be counted in the Aurora Leisure Centre, Letterkenny, and the Finn Valley Athletic Centre, Stranorlar.

Votes from the referenda will also be counted at these count centres.