Queen's speech in Dublin catalyst for change - Adams
SINN FÉIN’S decision to give the go-ahead to Northern Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to shake hands with Queen Elizabeth II was described by party leader Gerry Adams as “the right decision at the right time and for the right reasons”.
Mr Adams convened a press conference at the party’s offices in Dublin yesterday shortly after its ruling ardchomhairle decided by a clear majority to give the go-ahead for a historic and symbolic meeting.
He indicated that the context had changed since last year when Sinn Féin organised protests against the queen’s visit to the State, and also instructed the Sinn Féin mayor of Cashel not to greet the queen during her visit to the town. The mayor Michael Browne, who was terminally ill, defied the instruction.
Several times during the course of the conference, Mr Adams referred to the queen’s speech in Dublin Castle last year in terms of being a significant catalyst for change.
He also disclosed that the decision of the 40-strong ardchomhairle had not been unanimous but that the majority had been clear. He would not give the precise outcome.
He said the invitation had come from Co-operation Ireland to attend the event in Belfast and that President Michael D Higgins and the North’s First Minister Peter Robinson would also attend.
“As this means that Martin McGuinness will meet the monarch, the Queen of England, this will be very difficult for nationalists and republicans, especially those folks who have suffered at the hands of British forces in Ireland over many decades.”
Mr Adams said the decision had been taken in the interests of conflict resolution and national reconciliation. He said it would impose major symbolic and political challenges for the party.
“Irish republicans have been prepared to take bold initiatives for peace and to break stalemates in the interests of peace,” he said.
He said while unification remained the party’s prime objective there was a new dispensation in which a citizen could be Irish or unionist and be comfortable on this island.
He said a “confident dynamic forward-looking Sinn Féin [had] a genuine desire to embrace our unionist neighbours. I understand full well that this decision will be very difficult for people, especially victims of British crown forces. They will have genuine and understandable difficulties. It’s very clear that these legacy issues will have to be dealt with.”
Asked would it require similar generosity by the queen, given that the IRA had killed Lord Mountbatten by planting a bomb on his yacht at Mullaghmore, Co Sligo, Mr Adams acknowledged it would.
When it was put to him that Sinn Féin had organised protests against the queen’s visit last year, and also instructed the mayor of Cashel not to welcome her, he said that last year’s visit was a British royal visit to the State, allowing for a normalisation of relations.