BY-ELECTION IF McGUINNESS WINS

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MARTIN McGuinness is to resign his seat as MP for Mid Ulster should he be elected as President of Ireland.

Speaking to the Mid Ulster Mail Mr McGuinness said: “If I am lucky enough to be elected there would have to be a by-election in the Mid Ulster constituency which no doubt Sinn Fein would participate in and win.

“If I was to become President I would have to detach myself from all political parties and influences. I want to be a President for all the people of Ireland and would do it without fear or favour.”

The 61-year-old Sinn Fein MLA had not announced his decision to stand until Sunday after his decision to stand was ratified by the party’s Ard Chomhairle,

He lodged his nomination papers on Tuesday in Dublin following a meeting at his Mid Ulster constituency on Monday.

And it is understood his seat as MLA in Mid Ulster could be co-opted to another member of Sinn Fein.

Speaking about Monday’s meeting Mr McGuinness said: “I have to say all of them are very excited about my participation in the election. I have had great support from everyone who has spoken to me right across the community.

“I have met unionists who have wished me well and who have said they hoped I get elected,” said the deputy First Minister.

“A number of people in the north who lost loved ones as a result of the actions of the north have actually said they hope I do get elected and even offered to work for me during the election.”

He said the constituency of Mid Ulster was very important to him. “When I went there in 1997, I went to contest a seat that many people thought was unwinable. But the people of the contituency rallied to my cause and on four occasions I have been elected.

“I always regard the people of south Derry and east Tyrone with a huge amount of respect. Right across the board. The friends that I have made from all sections of the community is probably one of the most heart-warming things that have happened to me over the course of recent times.

“The amount of people I have met within the Protestant churches throughout the north of Ireland and the very close friends I have within those churches, the enormous respect I have for them and for their religious beliefs and also the fact that something hugely important has happened in the north where we have brought conflict to an end and where we have successfully all of us held the hand of friendship to each other,” he said.

“Obviously there are the exceptions of those who don’t share in that,” said the MP.

He said he was getting a tremendous reception on the campaign trail.

“I am in it to win but at the end of the day whatever the democratically expressed wishes of the people of Ireland are I will whole-heartedly accept it,”

Cookstown councillor Ciaran McElhone said Mr McGuinness’ constituency office will continue to run as normal during Presidential campaign.

Speculation that Mr McGuinness would stand for president emerged last month leading one punter to place a €100 bet at 25/1 on the MP winning.

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However since Sunday the odds of Mr McGuinness becoming President were slashed.

Several large bets were placed on Mr McGuinness last week ranging between €1,000 to €5,000 even before he revealed his decision to stand.

The odds offered by Irish bookmaker Paddy Power last week on him winning stood between 8/1 and 16/1. So if one punter put €5,000 at 16/1 and Martin wins, the winning bet could be as much as €85,000.

At the time of going to press he was tipped at 3/1 to be elected.

However Mr McGuinness said didn’t encourage people to bet on electoral contests. “At the end of the day it is down to the electorate. The bookies are out to make money and the odds have come down markedly but I don’t follow the bookies, I follow the people and the reception I get when I travel to meet with the people of Ireland. The amount of goodwill is absolutely amazing.”

A spokesperson for Paddy Power said: “However, it’s Sinn Fein candidate Martin McGuinness who has literally blown the race wide open with his odds slashed from 33/1 into 3/1 second favourite over the past seven days.”

The odds for all the candidates are as follows: evens Michael D.Higgins; 3/1 Martin McGuinness; 4/1 Gay Mitchell; 9/1 David Norris; 14/1 Mary Davis; 25/1 Sean Gallagher; 50/1 Dana Rosemary Scallon; 50/1 Labhras O’Murchu.