Presidential election candidate Martin McGuinness has said he is confident voters will not be swayed by the negative campaigning against his bid for the Áras.
Mr McGuinness said the electorate is “more wise” and will judge him on his peacemaking work and not solely on his IRA past.
Speaking to the ‘Journal,’ yesterday, Mr McGuinness also said Áras an Uachtárain would continue to be an “open house” for loyalists if he is elected.
Responding to extensive criticism of his campaign in the Dublin media at the weekend, Mr McGuinness said such negative campaigning is likely to produce “resentment” among the electorate.
“I am under no illusion and was not when my name was put forward that there would be elements in the media, particularly the British-owned media who would be attempting to undermine my campaign.
“There will be resentment among the ordinary people in Ireland about the media telling people how to vote. The electorate are more wise than that,” he said.
While the campaign to date has been dominated by a focus on Mr McGuinness’ IRA past, the Sinn Féin leader has pointed out that many key figures recent Irish history were involved in violence. “I have not made any secret of the fact that I was a member of the IRA and the circumstances which led me to join that organisation were no different from the circumstances which led to the same decision being taken by Eamonn deValera, Michael Collins, or Sean Lemass, or indeed people like Nelson Mandela and others in South Africa,” he said.
“If we analyse some of the more frenetic contributions in this election, its clear that people have not bought into the fact that I have been able to use my personality and political skills to make peace with Peter Robinson. We also see that those at the forefront of criticising me cannot recognise that they have a role to play in making peace with the rest of us,” he continued.
Mr McGuinness also claimed the focus on his past is a deliberate attempt to distract voters from the broad issues of the campaign. “They know that, if elected, I will be a symbol for the change that is so badly needed.
“People are in despair and are losing hope. I would use the presidency to encourage and promote civic participation.
“People have to look at me in the round. I first stood for election in 1982 and was elected on the first count. Over the last 30 years I have been working flat out to bring a resolution to the conflict,” he said.
Mr McGuinness also praised the “tremendous work” of outgoing president Mary McAleese and pledged to continue her out reach efforts to unionists. “Under the McAleese’s, the Áras has been an open house for unionists and loyalists.
“As someone who has welcomed Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson, the Áras will continue to an open house if I am elected,” he explained.
The presidential hopeful said he believes the voters can look beyond the media image and make a judgement based on his campaign.
“I have more confidence in the people of Ireland than anyone. The people of Ireland will be more understanding in looking at me, not in the context of what the media have said, but in the context of my contribution to peace in Ireland.
“As we of forward in this campaign I do so in the sure knowledge that people are looking for someone to stand up and empathise with them and try to bring about the new Ireland and new republic they desire,” he said.