Sinn Féin’s royal outreach divides nationalists

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A statement by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald congratulating Queen Elizabeth on a “lifetime of service” has renewed a controversy over the party’s relationship with the English royal family.

Ms McDonald was commenting on the news that a tree is to be planted in the grounds of Parliament Buildings at Stormont to mark the 70th anniversary of the queen’s coronation.

She said it is “important that we are respectful of the identity of our citizens who are British. I think that is entirely appropriate and I welcome that decision.

“For those who will celebrate the jubilee, I wish them well and a good jubilee and for those of us that don’t I believe we are now big enough, bold enough, generous enough to acknowledge the identity of others.”

She added: “Can I also extend to the British Queen a word of congratulations because 70 years is quite some record. That is what you call a lifetime of service.”

It is the latest display of support for the Windsor royals by the Sinn Fein leadership which has antagonised republicans, both inside and outside the party.

Although Sinn Féin insisted the comments and other gestures are intended as reconciliatory to unionists, they have divided nationalists ahead of the next Assembly election.

Dan Murphy of the Irish Republican Socialist Party described the efforts “disturbing”. He called on those “attempting this form of outreach” to focus instead on the socio-economic aspects of Irish unity and its benefits to the unionist community, not by “promoting a monarchy”.

“It sets a bad and dangerous precedent, promoting a monarchy to win hearts and minds, and stinks of blind opportunism,” he said.

“First and foremost I am an Irish Republican Socialist, I come from a strong and proud Republican area who faced the brunt of those who fought for their so called queen and country. My only comments about the Queen or the Royal Family is it needs abolished, simple.”

Aontú Deputy Leader and councillor for Mid Ulster Denise Mullen also criticised the move. She said it could not have been more ‘ill- timed’ following confirmation of the systematic and persistent collusion in the murder of Catholics by the British Crown Forces.

She hit out at what she described as “the embrace” of the British monarchy by both Sinn Féin and the SDLP at council level.

Councillor Mullen said: “It is puzzling how on the 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday Massacre by the British Parachute regiment, SDLP councillors at Derry and Strabane Council voted for a motion for Derry to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of the British Monarch.

“This is the same monarchy that has occupied Ireland for over 900 years and which honoured the perpetrators of Bloody Sunday. Even more inexplicably, Sinn Féin abstained on the motion at council.”

She said that as an Irish republican party, Aontú does not believe in a hereditary right to power.

“We believe that all citizens are born equal and that achievement society should be on the basis of merit and character. We understand that we share this island with a substantial number of people who do look to the British Monarch as their leader. And we respect that. In a pluralist society is completely acceptable that there are a plurality of views.

“Reconciliation, respect and peaceful coexistence do not mean that we have to dress up in each other’s political clothes.”

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