McGuinness does not rule out queen handshake


ANY DECISION to meet Queen Elizabeth on her jubilee visit to Northern Ireland this month would be based on the likely effect on the peace process, the North’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said.

At a news conference after the North-South Ministerial Council meeting in Farmleigh House, Dublin, yesterday, Mr McGuinness was asked about speculation that he would meet the British monarch when she visited the North on June 26th and 27th.

“Any decision that I am part of will be about ensuring that that decision will enhance the peace process and not in any way damage it,” Mr McGuinness said.

“And let me say also that I have tremendous respect for the desires and wishes of the unionist population in the North to be part of Queen Elizabeth’s jubilee celebrations.”

He added: “Nothing that I will do, nothing that I will say, will be done in any way to undermine the incredible progress that we’ve made, not just in the North but throughout this island.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it was not for him to interfere in the decisions being taken by any other political party.

However, highlighting the impact of the British royal visit to the Republic, he said: “We have to live in the future.”

Answering a separate question on sporting matters, both Mr Kenny and Mr McGuinness said they would favour an all-Ireland soccer team.

However, they concurred with First Minister Peter Robinson who said that politics should be kept apart from sport and it was a matter for the football associations, North and South.

“It’s not good to involve politics in sport. If you’re asking me a personal question, I would be a big supporter of an all-Ireland soccer team,” Mr Kenny said.

Mr Robinson said: “Whether we have the combined UK team of which Northern Ireland is a part or a joint Ireland team of which Northern Ireland would be a part, or separate teams for Northern Ireland and the Republic, have to be matters for the governing bodies of the various sports.

“I think as a general principle, politicians should stay clear – apart from the supportive role that they should have – of sport.”

On the same subject, Mr McGuinness said: “Like Peter, I think it really is a matter for the two football associations, the FAI and the IFA.

“I agree with the Taoiseach, and this is not a political point, I do believe that on the world stage, football-wise, we’d be much more effective players if we were to choose from an island which has six million people.”

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore also attended the council with a range of other Ministers from the Republic and Northern Ireland.

The council discussed economic developments, including the impact of the euro zone crisis, fiscal challenges, bank restructuring and lending, and the National Asset Management Agency.

Ministers discussed the challenges and likely priorities for the upcoming Irish European Union presidency in 2013, and explored the potential for co-operative actions during the presidency.