Presidential candidate Martin McGuinness has said he will use his international reputation to bring jobs to Ireland if he is elected to Áras an Uachtárain.
Mr McGuinness was speaking at a public rally held in the Clanree Hotel, Letterkenny, on Saturday night which was attended by more than 700 people.
He was introduced to the stage at the event by Donegal North East TD, Padraig MacLochlainn.
The Sinn Féin leader told the large crowd that Donegal has a special place in his heart and recalled how he spent summers in Inishowen as a child.
Mr McGuinness also said the north west suffered particularly from partition and said that, as president, he would work to promote unity.
“The peace process has gone a long way to tackle the worst effects of partition but there is much further to go. Many of the physical barriers have been removed. The next stage needs to be to build an all-island economy. The wasteful duplication of services needs to end. Sensible all Ireland working can deliver better services.
“Look at the example of the new cancer centre in Altnagelvin, or the new A5 road. None of these developments and others would have happened without the all-Ireland Ministerial council or which I am the longest serving member,” he said.
Mr McGuinness also pledged to act as a jobs ambassador for Ireland if elected president. “I believe that it is time to build a new Republic on this island. A real republic that puts the interests of citizens before those of bankers; a republic that puts the common good before private profit, a republic that puts the welfare of the people above the interests of a golden circle. I believe that the values of community, social solidarity and patriotism must be at the heart of this New Republic.
“The New Republic must also ensure that meaningful jobs are provided for our people. The jobs crisis is the biggest challenge now facing this country. As Deputy First Minister, I have, along with Ministerial colleagues brought thousands of new jobs to the north – I want to use my international reputation – my influence and skills to go to the boardrooms of major US corporations and elsewhere and help bring new jobs to these shores,” he said.
The presidential hopeful also said he wants to represent everyone across the island of Ireland. “I have said from the outset that I intend to be a President of the People. I want to be a President that stands for hard pressed working families; for those struggling to pay mortgages; for those people losing their jobs and facing emigration; for those with disabilities; for those lying on hospital trolleys.
“These are the people who need a President who will shine a light on their needs, who will highlight their concerns, who will stand up for their interests.
“There are parts of Ireland, such as Donegal, which have been disproportionately affected by unemployment, by emigration, by a lack of infrastructural investment, by having had their vital services, including health services, stripped to the bare minimum,” he said.
Mr McGuinness said that his experience gained during the peace process and on the international stage has prepared him for the office of the president.
“In standing for election as President of Ireland, what I am offering is the same leadership, commitment and determination that delivered one of the most successful peace processes in the world.
“As President I will defend and promote Ireland. I will uphold the constitution. I will stand up for Irish sovereignty and freedom.
“Throughout 40 years and more of political activism, on the streets of Derry, in Downing Street, in the White House, in the Assembly and on Good Friday I have only ever been interested in serving my country.
“Now I want to do it as your President. I promise to stand by you the people and I ask you now to stand with me,” he said.