Irish Republican News · November 12, 2016
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Republicanism strained by one-way peace traffic


Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness has renewed a controversy over his party’s ‘outreach’ efforts after he was spotted at a royal reception in London in which the English queen Elizabeth Windsor unveiled a new painting of herself.

Windsor was joined by Mr McGuinness as she unveiled the new portrait to celebrate her role in the peace process on Tuesday. DUP leader Arlene Foster, 26 County Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Windsor’s husband, ‘Duke of Edinburgh’ Philip Mountbatten, were also on hand as the painting was revealed to the gala event.

McGuinness applauded as the monarch pulled the satin cover off the painting at a reception in Chelsea on Tuesday. He later posed beside the portrait by Belfast-born artist Colin Davidson and again shook hands with the queen, recreating the historic moment in 2012 which was said to have inspired the portrait. He said: “I think she’s made a tremendous contribution to support the whole process of peace and reconciliation.”

Sinn Fein has said its engagements with the English royals are part of a process to recognise and respect the unionist tradition in Ireland. But Mr McGuinness’s attendance at such royal events, including a banquet at Windsor Castle two years ago, has repeatedly angered his party’s traditional support.

The failure of unionists to reciprocate is the source of much of the frustration, and the DUP’s campaign to inhibit use of the Irish language in the north of Ireland is one example which was again highlighted this week.

DUP minister Peter Weir adopted a new policy which sets out “the principal language is English” and ended the use of Irish in correspondence from the Six-County Department of Education. Official letters had previously been written in both English and Irish, but the use of Irish would is now deprecated.

Sinn Fein’s Niall O Donnghaile - who sits on the Irish Seanad - said the DUP had politicised the language.

“When you have a minister for education, who has a statutory obligation to promote and enhance the development of Irish medium education, taking the decision to shut out the visibility of Irish and saying it will be an English-only department, then that is ill intent, that is negative and that is politicising.

“The DUP are punishing thousands of children from every religious and cultural background.”

Responding to the development, Mr McGuinness admitted that some within the DUP “hate anything Irish”.

He said: “There’s a cohort of people within the DUP who hate anything to do with the Irish language”, adding: “We have to deal with the reality that the political institutions we’re part of are institutions that bring into government people who have different views about many of these matters.”


Sinn Fein is facing mounting internal pressure over the failure of last year’s ‘Fresh Start’ agreement to deal with the past conflict. There have also been conflicting messages over whether the party is ready to make a historic decision to take up its seats in Westminster parliaent.

While Martin McGuinness has refused to rule out the possibility, party leader Gerry Adams has again insisted this week it wouldn’t happen.

“We were elected - and it was my great honour to represent the people of Belfast for a long time - to not take our seats in the British parliament,” he said.

“It is a foreign parliament. It is not our parliament and we owe no allegiance to the English queen. We wish her well and we wish the people of Britain well.”

During sharp exchanges in the Dublin parliament, opposition Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said Sinn Fein’s approach was a “curious form of abstentionism because they have never abstained from taking the salaries or the expenses from Westminster or the Saxon shilling”, which he estimated at “a couple million”.

He claimed that a principled form of abstention would be to abstain altogether. Mr Adams said Mr Martin “would not be an expert on principles”, adding: “you should look in the mirror” -- referring to Fianna Fail’s continued abstention on key votes in the Dublin parliament order to sustain the Fine Gael-led minority government.

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