Amid an outcry among Irish nationalists and republicans, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has today issued a statement in support of his party’s decision to give the go-ahead to a meeting and handshake between Sinn Féin’s Stormont Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and English queen Elizabeth Windsor.
Details of the planned encounter have not yet been revealed, but it is believed the meeting will take place behind closed doors and only in the presence of official photographers. The meeting is scheduled to take place at an ‘arts and culture’ event following the main Jubilee rally and party at Stormont to mark the 60th anniversary of Windsor’s coronation.
Sinn Féin officials have made clear that Mr McGuinness will not bow to the queen, nor address Mrs Windsor as ‘Your Majesty’, her traditional (initial) appellation. According to the website of the British monarchy, the traditional form of meeting Windsor (for men) is a bow of the head -- an unacceptable humiliation for the former IRA commander.
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams this afternoon addressed the media after it was confirmed that the meeting would go ahead. He insisted the meeting was unconnected with Windsor’s Jubilee tour of the ‘United Kingdom’.
He also rejected claims that the meeting was an embarrassment for Sinn Féin, instead describing it as an initiative involving “major political and symbolic challenges” for Irish republicans.
The Sinn Féin leader said he accepted that the decision would cause “genuine and understandable difficulties for some people, not least some of the victims of the British crown forces in Ireland”, but asked for backing nonetheless.
“I ask all Sinn Féin members and all republicans to support this initiative,” he said.
“I would urge everyone, everywhere on this island to take ownership of our future. The people of this island deserve the very best society that can be created. I believe this initiative will contribute in a symbolic yet significant way to this necessary work.”
However, there was a wave of criticism of the plan on the internet and furious condemnation by republican traditionalists.
The President of Republican Sinn Féin Des Dalton said the greeting was “merely a symbolic confirmation of the fact that the Provisionals are part and parcel of the British administration in Ireland.”
He said the reality of British Rule had not changed for nationalists and still involved “arbitrary arrest and internment without trial” to secure British occupation”.
He claimed the “next step” for Sinn Féin would be to sit in the London parliament at Westminster.
“Their protestations to the contrary ring increasingly hollow.
“Irish Republicans will be opposing the visit of the Queen of England to the Six Counties just as we opposed her visit to the 26-County State last year.”
Dismissing Adams’s aspirations for reconciliation, he insisted the “only basis for a just and lasting settlement” would be a British “declaration of intent to withdraw” which would “create the space within which the people of All-Ireland can negotiate and debate the shape of a truly democratic Al-Ireland Republic.”
The following is the full text of the statement today by Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams.
“Mar is eol daoibh uilig, fuair Martin Mc Guinness cuireadh ó Co-operation Ireland a bheith i láthair ag ócáid i mBéal Feirste an tseachtain seo chugainn chun na healaíonn agus an cultúr ar fud na hÉireann a cheiliúradh.
“As you all know Martin McGuinness has received an invitation from Co-operation Ireland to attend an event in Belfast next week to celebrate the arts and culture across Ireland.
“The Co-operation Ireland event will also be attended by the President of Ireland, the Queen of England and by First Minister Peter Robinson.
“It is unconnected with the Jubilee.
“Mar go gciallaíonn seo go gcasfaí Martin Mc Guinness le banríon na Breataine beidh seo iontach deacair ag Poblachtaigh agus ar Náisiúnaithe a d’fhulaing faoi lámha fhórsaí na Breataine in Éirinn thar na blianta.
“Because this involves Martin meeting the British monarch this will cause difficulty for Republicans and nationalists who have suffered at the hands of British forces in Ireland over many decades.
“However, in the context of conflict resolution and national reconciliation, as well as our own republican national objectives, the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle agreed that Martin should accept the invitation.
“This is a significant initiative involving major political and symbolic challenges for Irish republicans.
“As the record of the peace process demonstrates Irish republicans have frequently been prepared to take bold and historic initiatives and risks for peace to break stalemates and find agreements.
“Is Sinn Féin páirtí Poblachtach Éireannach agus is Ath aontú na hÉireann agus neamhspleachas na hÉireann ár príomh chuspóir polaitiúil.
“Sinn Féin is an Irish republican party whose primary political objective is the re-unification and independence of Ireland.
“We have a coherent and viable strategy for the achievement of these democratic objectives, including the end of partition and unifying the people of this island through a genuine process of national reconciliation and transformation.
“So, Sinn Féin is about nation building.
“Sinn Féin is for an Ireland of Equals in which there is space for everyone and for all identities.
“An Ireland in which all our citizens can live comfortably and in harmony and mutual respect.
“Sinn Féin is for a new dispensation in which a citizen can be Irish and unionist.
“Where one can also claim Britishness and be comfortable on this island.
“Poblacht Nua ina bhfuil Glas agus Oraiste aontaithe - Sin í an fís atá againne.
“Our vision of a new Republic is one in which the Orange and Green unite in a cordial union.
“Today’s decision reflects a confident, dynamic, forward looking Sinn Féin demonstrating our genuine desire to embrace our unionist neighbours.
It reflects the equality and parity of esteem arrangements which are now in place.
“Tuigim go mbeidh an cinneadh seo crua agus an-deacair ag daoine, go háirithe ag íobartaigh fhorasaí na Breataine in Éirinn.
“I accept that this decision will cause genuine and understandable difficulties for some people, not least some of the victims of the British crown forces in Ireland.
“It is clear that legacy issues have to be dealt with and Sinn Féin will continue to engage in that work.
“Today’s decision is the right thing to do at the right time and for the right reasons.
“I ask all Sinn Féin members and all republicans to support this initiative.
“I would urge everyone, everywhere on this island to take ownership of our future.
“The people of this island deserve the very best society that can be created.
“I believe this initiative it will contribute in a symbolic yet significant way to this necessary work.”