Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill has expressed her respect and admiration for the Queen of England as her party denounced criticism from nationalists and republicans with the message “the haters are not the future”.
Ms O’Neill went further than the party’s previous gestures to the English royal family when she said she admired the queen’s “70 year’s of dedicated public service”. on the anniversary of her coronation.
She said she wrote to the queen to praise her “significant contribution” to the peace process and wrote of the “value and respect” she had for the monarch.
Supporters of Sinn Féin’s blossoming relationship with the English royal family insisted the party only stands to gain. Activists went online to claim the move could win the support of unionists and supporters of the ‘cross community’ Alliance Party for Sinn Féin and a united Ireland.
However, critics of the current Sinn Féin leadership denounced the move as an Orwellian u-turn. Others claimed it is part of a deliberate strategy to purge the party of traditionalist and ideological republicans.
Sinn Féin Finance Minister Conor Murphy, who attended a Jubilee service for the Queen in Armagh, posted a picture of himself exiting St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral following the service alongside prominent unionists and clergymen.
“It’s a time for reaching out, the haters are not the future,” Mr Murphy captioned the picture.
The new Mayor of Belfast, Sinn Féin’s Tina Black, also attended events in the city to mark the ‘Platinum Jubilee’.
So-called ‘unionist outreach’ has yet to be credited with delivering significant policy changes, and there are fears it may actually be making unionist sectarianism more entrenched, as seen in the recent vile chants about the murder of Michaela McAreavey.
Dee Fennell, spokesman for Saoradh, said it is all part of the transformation of Sinn Féin into a constitutional nationalist party.
“There was a time when Sinn Féin activists not only opposed the British monarchy but actively demonstrated against British royals’ visits to Ireland,” he said.
The Irish Republican Socialist Party condemned what it said was an “appalling and bizarre congratulation letter” sent by Sinn Féin to the queen.
It said there are grieving families, friends and comrades of those “whose deaths were rubber stamped by Elizabeth Windsor, head of the British armed forces in occupied Ireland.”
It added: “Growing numbers of working-class people (both here and in England) are rejecting the obscenely expensive ‘Jubilee’ celebrations in the face of growing poverty and the cost-of-living crisis. Sinn Féin have abandoned those people.”
Republican Sinn Féin said it was “telling” that Ms O’Neill had praised Windsor’s contribution to the Stormont peace process. An RSF spokesman said Windsor “became queen as the empire was disintegrating, but she never at any time tried to rein in her governments as they tried to hold on to their ill-gotten gains.
“It ill behoves an Irish politician purporting to represent people in the Occupied Six Counties to talk about her service to the British people.”