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Browne reveals McGuinness still in the IRA three years ago

EMBATTLED presidential candidate Martin McGuinness came under intense scrutiny last night over his IRA past when Vincent Browne produced eight books with alleged evidence that Mr McGuinness was in the IRA long after 1974.

Mr Browne dealt a body blow towards the end of the debate -- accusing the Sinn Fein man of lying about his membership of the terrorist organisation.

"I have reported from Northern Ireland during my time as a journalist, justice ministers have said it, authors have said it, the gardai have said it, I know you were a member of the IRA, Martin, how can we all be so wrong?

"If people believe you are lying about this, how do they know you won't lie about a lot of things when you are elected President?" he asked.

Mr McGuinness hit back, again claiming that the Irish people were not bothered about his association with the IRA.

"I am not telling lies about a substantive issue in my life," he told the interviewer.

Mr Browne retorted: "I know you are a member of the IRA Martin (I have been told) by several people including people who are very close to you, they spoke about you being a senior member of the IRA three, four, five years ago."

And the intense rivalry between the former IRA chief and Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell played out in heated exchanges.

The MEP was at times quick-witted in his attempts to put down Mr McGuinness. "I also accept that Martin McGuinness contributed to the Peace Process, listen we wouldn't have had the problem without them," he said.

He also sarcastically urged Mr McGuinness to "stop shouting" when making his points.

Speaking to the Herald after the debate, Mr McGuinness accused Fine Gael of a strategy to damage his campaign.

"I think all they're doing is damaging themselves. We had these ridiculous statements that if I was elected President of Ireland that that would be a disincentive for multinationals in the United States," he said.

"On the very day my candidacy was announced I was on Wall Street talking to executives on the New York Stock exchange."

hnews@herald.ie