Mud flies

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The seven who would be president (l-r) Gay Mitchell, David Norris, Mary Davis, Sean Gallagher, Martin McGuinness, Dana Rosemary Scallon and Michael D Higgins.[/caption]

Martin McGuinness is Fine Gael’s bete noir, Michael D Higgins is calling for emigrant voting, while Gay Mitchell wants joint constitutional rule for the North.

All this and more is making headlines this week in a presidential race with seven candidates and less than three weeks to voting day, Oct. 27.

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Fine Gael candidate Mitchell pulled the biggest rabbit from the hat in proposing that Northern Ireland could have joint heads of state in the form of Queen Elizabeth and the Irish president. Referring to the principality of Andorra, whose heads of state are both the French president and Catholic Bishop of Urgell in Catalonia, Mitchell suggested a similar arrangement for the North.

Stated Mitchell: “Would it be possible to do what they do in Andorra and have joint heads of state in Northern Ireland in the context of a united Ireland?”

Mitchell’s suggestion apart, the headlines were heavily focused on Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, who said that criticisms of him from Fine Gael politicians showed they were suffering from “paranoia.”

McGuinness was reacting to government chief whip Paul Kehoe, who tweeted about the €31.35 million IRA robbery of the Northern Bank in 2004, writing “Why would you need your salary when you have the proceeds of the northern bank at your disposal?”

And environment minister Phil Hogan went on the attack declaring that U.S. corporate investment would dry up if McGuinness was elected president. Hogan also branded McGuinness “a terrorist.”

“Fine Gael have launched even more ridiculous and bizarre allegations against me about the Northern Bank. Of course these are all rubbish,” said McGuinness. He said his reaction was to “laugh even harder” when he heard the investment claims from Mr. Hogan.

“The day I was nominated to run for the presidency, I was with Peter Robinson in Wall Street talking to senior officials of the New York Stock Exchange and the reaction was that they and us will continue to create jobs and investment.

“The truth is, I can walk into any boardroom in the United States and what we have already achieved in the North of Ireland makes it very easy to convince investors of the importance and value of investment here,” McGuinness said.