Royal handshake could follow major nationalist protest
Sinn Fein has still not ruled out the participation of Martin McGuinness in events surrounding the visit by the British queen and commander-in-chief, Elizabeth Windsor, amid speculation that a deal may already have been done on the matter.
Windsor is to visit the North on Wednesday and Thursday next week.
Sinn Fein said it had rejected a meeting between McGuinness and Windsor at a giant unionist jubilee event set to take place at Stormont -- but left open the possibility that the North’s Deputy First Minister might attend another royal event.
An organisation known as Co-operation Ireland, which carried as a motto “the peace-building charity”, said it had invited the British monarch, the First and Deputy First Ministers and Irish President Michael D Higgins to an extraordinary soiree in Belfast on Wednesday evening, following the Stormont rally, to celebrate Irish arts and culture.
The organisation said the event would “bring together the joint patrons and a small number of guests to recognise and celebrate the transformational strength of the arts and culture across the community in Northern Ireland and throughout Ireland.”
While some nationalists fear that the British government is deliberately attempting to humiliate the former IRA commander, others have argued a public handshake between McGuinness and the British queen could mark a historic peace gesture.
To mark the queen’s visit, a major nationalist demonstration is to be held in Belfast on Saturday to show support and solidarity with victims’ families of British state violence in their ongoing struggles for ‘truth and justice’.
It will take the form of a silent march, led by a solitary piper, from Dunville Park, Falls Road, at 2.00pm on Saturday and conclude with a rally outside Belfast city hall. The rally will be addressed by speakers from each of the Six Counties who lost close relatives at the hands of the British state, or who were themselves actual victims of state violence.
The organisers said the event would provide an opportunity for everyone within the broad nationalist community to participate.
Announcing the planned demonstration, the organising committee said the forthcoming British royal visit to the North presented “a very unique opportunity” to publicly highlight the fact that many hundreds of people, of all ages, met their deaths at the hands of British Crown forces and their agents in Ireland during the course of the present British monarch’s reign. Many, many more were injured or endured physical and psychological abuse by those same forces.
“Countless families across Ireland still live with the painful reality of the tragedies, distress and anguish brought to their homes by those forces of which the British monarch is Commander-in Chief.
It said that during her reign, British forces who had taken oaths of loyalty to Elizabeth Windsor had implemented internment, murdered hundreds of innocent unarmed civilians, colluded with unionist death squads, enforced draconian and repressive laws, and continued to conceal the truth about Britain’s role in the conflict.
“Having held discussions with a cross-section of families from different parts of the North in recent weeks, it was clear that those families firmly believe that their loss and pain is far too often ignored or brushed aside by the British state and by the mainstream media,” the organisers said.
“In many cases, the families of those who died at the hands of Britain’s Crown forces still find that, decades after the murders of their loved ones, the British state continues to obstruct their quest for truth and justice.
“Those families are not aware of any cause for jubilation.
“The families with whom we held discussions indicated that they would welcome and support a public demonstration highlighting the fact that the British state, of which the monarch is head, continues to wash its hands of the many crimes and injustices which it perpetrated in Ireland.”
Saturday’s demonstration is intended to be completely non-party political and organisers have welcomed the participation of nationalists from all shades of political opinion and those with none.
“All we ask is that the focus and the emphasis is placed solely on the injustices still endured by victims of British state violence,” they said.
The march will assemble at Dunville Park on the Falls Road at 2.00pm on Saturday 23rd June for a silent and dignified march, led by a lone piper, ending with a rally outside Belfast city Hall.
Families across the country that lost loved ones at the hands of the British state and its agents are asked to attend and to carry with them images of their murdered relatives.
There will be no bands at the demonstration, and no party political banners will be allowed. Those attending are asked to bring and carry black flags.
“This is a unique opportunity for nationalists, republicans, socialists and other progressives from across the Six Counties and beyond to show their support for all families of victims of British state violence, and to demonstrate their disdain and contempt for those who continue to perpetuate ongoing injustices and discrimination those same families still face,” organisers said.
“The British state might wish that people would simply forget about the deaths, violence and trauma that its forces and agents wreaked across communities throughout Ireland.
“We are saying to everyone within the broad nationalist community that they also have a choice - abide by Britain’s wishes, or stand shoulder to shoulder with their neighbours and their friends in an unparalleled show of support and solidarity for the families of Britain’s victims, in their ongoing struggles for Truth and Justice.”