McGuinness Down Under
Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator and Executive Education Minister, Martin McGuinness, has spent the last week on a party visit to Australia.
McGuinness has held a series of high profile meetings with Australian politicans and officials, which he described as ``positive and encouraging''.
``It is important that we recognise the contribution of the Irish diaspora to Irish political development. The ongoing interest from Irish people away from home has been essential to the peace process, and will continue to be so,'' he said.
McGuinness held meetings on Saturday, 2 December, with former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, and with Laurie Brereton, MP and Shadow Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs. Keating is famed for his efforts to extricate Australia from the status of a British dominion to become a republic. McGuinness said his meeting with Keating went particularly well.
During the course of the week the Executive Education minister met with the Irish Ambassador, Richard O'Brien, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer MP, Education Minister David Kemp MP and Victoria Premier Steve Brack.
Speaking before his meeting with Downer in Canberra, McGuinness described Peter Mandelson as a ``political disaster'' for the peace process.
``Peter Mandelson inherited a unique and highly developed opportunity to resolve the historic conflict in Ireland,'' he said. ``By his mishandling of this opportunity he has retarded the search for lasting peace in Ireland and endangered the Good Friday Agreement which so many worked so hard to achieve.''
On Wednesday, 6 December, McGuinness attended the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the political legacy of the 1980-1981 Hunger Strike, which was followed by a fundraising meeting with Cairde Shinn Féin.