Martin McGuinness would meet Queen as president

Martin McGuinness: "This is about new beginnings and I've been at the heart of new beginnings"

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Martin McGuinness has said he will be prepared to meet all heads of state "without exception", if he is elected President of Ireland.

Sinn Fein announced on Friday that it would be supporting Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister for the role.

When the Queen made her first visit to Ireland in May, Sinn Fein did not take part in any of the main ceremonies.

Mr McGuinness has secured the necessary support of independent members of the Irish parliament for his nomination.

They are Finian McGrath, Luke Flanagan, Michael Healy-Rae and Tom Fleming.

Mr McGuinness' candidacy is expected to be ratified by the party's executive on Sunday.

Returning from a trip to the US on Saturday, Mr McGuinness told the BBC he had given careful consideration to his decision to stand and hoped it would not be divisive.

He was asked how he would handle another Royal visit to Ireland, given his party's position on the Queen's historic trip.

He said: "If the people of Ireland decide that I should be their president, my responsibilities and duties would be to meet heads of state from all over the world and to do that without exception and that would be my position."

Judgement

He added that he considered himself to be part of a new atmosphere in the country and that Irish people had "more sense" than to be swayed by hostile media.

"The people of Ireland have watched the political progress that Gerry Adams and I have been at the heart of for many years," Mr McGuinness said.

"I think I would prefer their judgement than the judgement of media who are looking for spectacular headlines."

Martin McGuinness, who has admitted being second in command of the IRA in Derry in the 1970s, looks set to stand for the Irish presidency

A former IRA commander, Mr McGuinness has been Deputy First Minister since 2007.

While he is likely to face significant scrutiny of his paramilitary past, his party colleagues believe his high profile during the peace process should help build the Sinn Fein vote.

Earlier this year, the party won 14 seats in the Irish parliament, Dail Eireann - its strongest performance in the modern era.

Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell, Special Olympics boss Mary Davis, businessman Sean Gallagher and Labour's Michael D Higgins of Labour, have already put their names forward for the October election.

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