This was his address in full to those who were there:
“I am delighted to be here this evening in Letterkenny addressing you as a candidate for the Presidency of my country.
Donegal of course has a special place in my heart. My mother was from Donegal and I spent many summers as a boy on my grandfather’s farm on the Inishowen peninsula. I have fond memories of those times and I cherish my connections to this great county.
Derry and Donegal have a long and close history. The partition of Ireland has had a deep and lasting effect on both. Ecomomically, politically and socially, partition was a disaster for Donegal and for Derry. It was a disaster for Ireland.
Towns were cut off from their natural hinterlands, Businesses were cut off from their natural markets, farmers along the border suffered disruption and hardship. Disruption was also caused to social life along the border and even to family connections.
The Peace Process has gone a long way to tackle the worst effects of Partition but there is much further to go. Many of the physical barriers have been removed. The next stage needs to be to build an all-island economy. The wasteful duplication of services needs to end. Sensible all Ireland working can deliver better services.
Look at the example of the new cancer centre in Altnagalvin, or the new A5 road. None of these developments and others would have happened without the all-Ireland Ministerial council or which I am the longest serving member.
In this Presidential election thousands of Irish citizens are being denied the right to vote for their President. The current President could not even vote in the Presidential election if she still lived in her native Belfast. This must change. Irish citizens from whatever part of Ireland must be able to vote in Presidential elections and the Government must do whatever it takes to ensure that this democratic entitlement is realised.
In the meantime, vote or no vote, I intend to be a President for all of Ireland’s 32 Counties.
Huge progress has been made in recent years in ending the conflict on this island, and in creating a new peaceful dispensation in which our people and our country should be able to thrive. But we have to go further. We have to begin to heal the scars of the past 40 years.
The period during the next Presidency will see the centenary of many defining moments in our history. These commemorations need to be handled sensibly and sensitively. I intend to ensure that they are handled in a way that all sections of our people can participate in and learn from the commemorative events.
I have also proposed that this decade of commemorations become a Decade of Reconciliation which would celebrate the diverse nature of Irish society and the peace we now enjoy.
Bridges have been built in recent between the communities in the North and between North and South. In this regard I want to acknowledge the contribution of President McAleese who made ‘building bridges’ a theme of her Presidency.
I believe that the time has now come to move from bridge building to building unity.
As President I want to lead the way in bringing all of our people — North and South, Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter closer together through mutual respect and understanding. I want to bring both parts of our Ireland closer together, laying the foundations for Irish unity.
I have said from the outset that I intend to be a President of the People. I want to be a President that stands for hard pressed working families; for those struggling to pay mortgages; for those people losing their jobs and facing emigration; for those with disabilities; for those lying on hospital trolleys.
These are the people who need a President who will shine a light on their needs, who will highlight their concerns, who will stand up for their interests.
There are parts of Ireland, such as Donegal, which have been disproportionately affected by unemployment, by emigration, by a lack of infrastructural investment, by having had their vital services, including health services, stripped to the bare minimum.
There are some in official Ireland who believe that some Irish people and some parts of Ireland deserve first class status while others don’t really matter. Well as someone who has struggled for 40 years to be treated as a first class citizen and I can guarantee people here that under my Presidency every citizen in an Ireland will be a first class citizen and every part of Ireland — North, South, East and West will be cherished. That is the essence of what a republic means.
Many of our citizens have become disillusioned with the political system and with many of the long standing institutions of Irish life. This is inevitable considering the events of recent years. But as faith in institutions falls the question must be asked as to what will replace them.
I believe that it is time to build a new Republic on this island. A real republic that puts the interests of citizens before those of bankers; a republic that puts the common good before private profit, a republic that puts the welfare of the people above the interests of a golden circle. I believe that the values of community, social solidarity and patriotism must be at the heart of this New Republic.
The New Republic must also ensure that meaningful jobs are provided for our people. The jobs crisis is the biggest challenge now facing this country. As Deputy First Minister, I have, along with Ministerial colleagues brought thousands of new jobs to the north – I want to use my international reputation – my influence and skills to go to the boardrooms of major US corporations and elsewhere and help bring new jobs to these shores.
In standing for election as President of Ireland, what I am offering is the same leadership, commitment and determination that delivered one of the most successful peace processes in the world. As President I will defend and promote Ireland. I will uphold the constitution. I will stand up for Irish sovereignty and freedom.
Throughout 40 years and more of political activism, on the streets of Derry, in Downing Street, in the White House, in the Assembly and on Good Friday I have only ever been interested in serving my country. Now I want to do it as your President. I promise to stand by you the people and I ask you now to stand with me.
Go raibh maith agaibh.
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