Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness to meet Queen

 

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams described the decision for the Queen and Martin McGuinness to meet as "good for Ireland"

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Sinn Fein has agreed to a historic first meeting with the Queen following a special meeting of the party.

Martin McGuinness is due to meet the Queen and shake her hand at a charity reception in Belfast next week.

The former IRA leader has been a major figure in the Irish peace process and has been deputy first minister of Northern Ireland for five years.

Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson said the meeting would be a "most significant event".

The BBC's Ireland correspondent Mark Simpson said it would once have been unthinkable.

In the past, Sinn Fein leaders boycotted royal visits to Ireland and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) targeted members of the Royal Family.

In 1979, the paramilitary group murdered the Queen's cousin, Lord Mountbatten, while he was on holiday in the Republic of Ireland.

'Symbolic'

However, following the Queen's highly successful state visit to the Irish Republic last May, there has been mounting speculation that she would meet Sinn Fein.

Speaking after Friday's Sinn Fein meeting in Dublin, party president Gerry Adams described the decision as "good for Ireland" and "the right thing to do at the right time and for the right reasons".

Analysis

The Queen has been to Northern Ireland 19 times. Her next visit is likely to be the most significant.

There is no shortage of reasons for her and Martin McGuinness not to meet.

The IRA killing of Lord Mountbatten hit the Royal Family hard.

Irish republicans have traditionally shunned anything to do with the British establishment.

But the peace process has changed almost everything.

The once unthinkable is now possible.

Mr Adams said the decision was a "significant initiative, involving major political and symbolic challenges for Irish republicanism".

However, he said it reflected Sinn Fein's "genuine desire to embrace our unionist neighbours".

Mr Paterson said it was "right that the Queen should meet representatives from all parts of the community".

"Today's news will ensure that next week's visit will move Northern Ireland a whole new step forward," he said.

The BBC's royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell said it has recently become "inevitable" that the Queen "would meet a man who has now embraced the democratic process" during her Diamond Jubilee tour.

He said that Sinn Fein was "badly wrong-footed" during the Queen's visit to the Republic last year, when she made significant gestures including speaking in Irish and laying a wreath in memory of Irish rebels who died fighting for independence from Britain.

At the time, Sinn Fein had opposed her visit, and our correspondent said the party had been criticised for snubbing the Queen.

He said a reception organised by the cross-border charity Co-operation Ireland had provided a helpful backdrop for next week's highly symbolic meeting.

Peace-building

Mr McGuinness and Northern Ireland's First Minister, Peter Robinson, have been invited to attend the reception along with the Queen and the Irish President Michael D Higgins.

The Queen is joint patron of Co-operation Ireland with the Irish President.

The peace-building charity was established in 1979 and works to promote good relations between Catholics and Protestants on both sides of the Irish border.

BBC Newsline's political correspondent Martina Purdy traces Martin McGuinness's journey from IRA leader to peacemaker

The reception will coincide with the Queen's visit to Northern Ireland, but is not part of her scheduled programme of Jubilee celebrations.

The chairman of Co-operation Ireland, Peter Sheridan, was once the most senior Catholic police officer in Northern Ireland.

Mr Sheridan said the meeting between the Queen and Mr McGuinness was "part of the healing process" and would demonstrate "that we have gotten to the stage where we can acknowledge each other with respect".

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which is Sinn Fein' main partner in Northern Ireland's power-sharing coalition government, welcomed the move as "a step in the right direction".

'Bitter history'

Jeffrey Donaldson, from the DUP, said: "We acknowledge the suffering of all those who have been victims of the terrorist violence during the Troubles, but we're also looking to the future in Northern Ireland - a shared future - and it's welcome that Martin McGuinness is recognising Her Majesty the Queen as our head of state."

Peter Hain, a former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said: "Despite the history, the bitter history, which has involved royals as well - of course I think of Earl Mountbatten's assassination by the IRA - I think despite that bitter history, what this really puts the seal on is that the past is the past."

Former Sinn Fein publicity director Danny Morrison said he was in favour of a public handshake taking place between the Queen and Mr McGuinness.

"It's a huge advance in terms of symbolism," he said.

"Myself and others organised a 'Queen of Death' march in 1977, as we viewed the Queen coming over here as a triumphalist endorsement of the state forces in their war against the republican community.

"We had a peaceful march which was attacked with plastic and rubber bullets - we were enraged back then, and there's hurt on all sides."

 

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  • Comment number 420.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 419.

    @128 you should check your dates before you pass comment.
    Clinton was still President at the time.
    McGuiness meeting the Queen is a slap in the face to the Paisley clan.
    Waiting on the grunts from Ballymena

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 418.

    Never though I'd see the day come

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 417.

    Quote " 400. Tracey Brandeau
    Wolftone98 @383 Well said! Michael Collins fought hard for freedom but he desired only peace. For that he sacrificed his life." /end Quote

    Michael Collins was a traitor, shot and killed for his crimes!

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 416.

    When Queen Elizabeth meets Martin McGuiness, She should not only bow to him, as for his valour he is far more worthy of recieving the bow, She should lie prostrate in front of him and beg his peoples forgiveness for the war crimes commited against them in her name! Maybe this would bring about some healing in both communities!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 415.

    This is what is called moving the "line in the sand". Politics is all about repositioning that line in the sand as it fits the times .Today's freedom fighter is tomorrows statesman. This was, the inevitable road as soon as Sinn Finn decided to take the only road that was open to them, to become politicians. To the dinosaurs that still believe the gun is the answer the pen is mightier the the gun.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 414.

    I would not worry about this atm,a Nato Country has been attacked (Turkey) and it looks like it could go tits up real soon.

    Where will Ireland be then?

    Oh I know hiding under the bed as usual, the same as in all the rest of the wars!

    Scared and hiding!

  • Comment number 413.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 412.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 411.

    This is a good move by the Queen, it certainly wrong footed this anti monarchist who says the royal family is good for nothing. I will have to say generally as a qualifier in future.

    If when the Euro goes pop she offers the south an opporunity to join sterling we may solve the whole issue of a British Isles including Ireland into a genuinely United Kingdom.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 410.

    To >> 407. Pattherealist

    The IRA are terrorists!

    What else do you call people who set bombs to kill and maim people who are nothing to do with your stupid conflict?

    The British people did not support the conflict, they had the same choice you had!

  • Comment number 409.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 408.

    The modern vogue "truth and reconciliation" is hard to argue against. Still, I hope that it will never be forgotten how many young men, women and children on both sides died needlessly at the murderous hands of Martin McGuinness, Gerry Adams and the British army. Sacrificial lambs slaughtered on the altar of failed politics and failed diplomacy.Failed because of selfishness .

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 407.

    I grew up in the Irish Republic, and us "FreeStaters" for the most part, stayed out of this war. I grew up watching it on TV, as people in Britain did. I live in the USA now and I see how the mainstream media have distorted the minds of the young people, who are trained to incorrectly equate IRA with Terrorist! That is the first reason that I'm writing this article...

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 406.

    One appreciates that this augurs well for the process/project etc but it is still our territory and we must be careful as to the message we send out. This man is not fit to shake our Queen;s hand and his bragging about it will do nothing to reinforce our commitment to the majority electorate in Ulster. It should not happen.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 405.

    I don't know why my post 398 was removed, but the house rules clearly state that comments can't

    "Describe or encourage activities which could endanger the safety or well-being of others".

    So all the comments that encourage support for the IRA could be considered a breach of the house rules.

    And in 2012, it does worry me that there are still people out there supporting the IRA.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 404.

    @395 TheBladesman You obviously have NO IDEA of the atrocities committed against the Irish people and the Catholics of the north. Of course those bombings you refer to were wrong & evil; but so were the terrible crimes committed by the British occupiers over 800 years of oppression & brutality!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 403.

    What happened to 401? I didn't read anything negative to his/her comment, not one to break house rules.

    Big brother watching over me again....please, stop it!!!!!!!!!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 402.

    Sinn Fein leaders were only a reflection of the views of their supporters and elements of the nationalist community, and may in fact have been more moderate than the most militant. Ultimately the IRA only existed because people supported them.

  • Comment number 401.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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