Mary Lou McDonald writes to Queen over death of Prince Philip

Letter suggests SF leader following example of McGuinness in seeking to build relations with British royals

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has written privately to Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles to express her condolences on the death of Prince Philip. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has written privately to Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles to express her condolences on the death of Prince Philip. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times.

 

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has written privately to Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles to express her condolences on the death of Prince Philip.

In response to queries from The Irish Times, Ms McDonald’s office confirmed she had written to both royals.

On hearing news of the death of the prince last week, Ms McDonald tweeted her sympathy to the queen and to “those of a British identity on our island, for whom his death will be felt as a great loss” - a move that has been seen by some as a conciliatory gesture to unionists.

However, her private correspondence to the Royal Family may suggest that Ms McDonald’s gestures were not just for public consumption, but she is also seeking to build private relationships with the royals, following the example of the late Martin McGuinness.

Mr McGuinness, a senior Sinn Féin politican and former IRA commander, broke ground for Republicans by meeting and shaking hands with the queen and later seeking to establish a rapport with her. When Mr McGuinness died in 2017, she sent a private letter of condolence to his widow.

Buckingham Palace said it would not comment on private correspondence and Sinn Féin declined to release a copy of the letter.

The news comes days after Ms McDonald said in an interview of British radio that she was “sorry that happened” when asked if she would apologise to Prince Charles for the killing of his uncle, Lord Mountbatten, by the IRA in 1979.

While her words did not amount to an unambiguous apology for the IRA action, they did go further than Sinn Féin normally does when pressed on IRA killings during the Troubles.