Northern Ireland

Unionists should be 'loved and cherished'

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Media captionMartin McGuinness: "Unionists are brothers and sisters, to be loved and cherished "

Martin McGuinness has told his party's annual conference that unionists "need to be loved and cherished".

The Deputy First Minister was addressing the first Sinn Fein ard fheis to be held in Northern Ireland.

He said that Ireland was a proud country and he was proud to serve it.

He added: "I see unionists as brothers and sisters to be loved and cherished as we continue to develop a genuine process of reconciliation on our journey to the new republic."

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams will address the conference on Saturday night.

BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport said that while Mr Adams was expected to mention the Irish presidential election in his address, it would not be in any great detail.

He added that speculation has focused on whether the former agriculture minister Michelle Gildernew will stand.

"They won't confirm anything until later this month, but there's now been so much speculation that it's increasingly unlikely that Sinn Fein will not enter the race," our correspondent added.

Mrs Gildernew said she had not been asked but added that representing Ireland on the world stage would be an honour.

"It's an honour even to have your name associated with it," she said.

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