Presidential candidate Michael D. Higgins, has hit out at Martin McGuinness by accusing him of using the upcoming election as an opportunity to justify and promote the IRA. Higgins’ unprovoked attack on McGuinness occurred when he was questioned by the Sunday Independent, and he went on to suggest that Sinn Fein should not be allowed to claim ownership of the Northern Ireland Peace Process for the entirety of the election campaign.
Higgins isn’t alone in his apparent outrage at McGuinness running for Irish Presidency; the family of Garda Michael Clerkin who was killed by an IRA bomb on the Laois- Offaly border 35 years ago are also appalled saying that McGuinness “has a nerve”. Despite there being obvious unease amongst the nation about McGuinness running for the presidential position, the question of why Higgins’ suddenly raised these concerns must be posed.
Is Michael D.’s outburst a last ditch attempt to cause some controversy in what has been an otherwise mostly tame campaign? This statement, coupled with his marijuana admission earlier in the week, suggests that he is trying to inject some ‘juice’ into his image before it’s all over. Yesterday’s Red C Poll results, which were commissioned by the Sunday Business Post, showed that Higgins’ main competitor Sean Gallagher has overtaken him by 12 percentage points in terms of public electorate support. Considering this evident increase in public confidence at Gallagher’s ability to preside over the Republic of Ireland, Higgins will need to take a new approach if he is to succeed in Áras bid.