Ex-IRA commander McGuinness seeks Irish presidency

September 18, 2011 - 10:25 AM

DUBLIN (AP) — A former Irish Republican Army commander, Martin McGuinness, has announced he is running for president of Ireland, facing immediate questions about his IRA past.

The 61-year-old McGuinness said Sunday he would quit this week as the senior Catholic in Northern Ireland's unity government and launch his election campaign in the neighboring Republic of Ireland.

McGuinness announced his move after leaders of the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party formally endorsed him. The Oct. 27 election will decide who succeeds President Mary McAleese as Ireland's symbolic head of state.

Historians and Irish government leaders say McGuinness was a commander of the outlawed IRA for more than three decades, but he has never admitted this. The IRA killed nearly 1,800 people.