BOYCOTT:SINN FÉIN has moved to distance itself from the party's mayor of Cashel, Co Tipperary, who made history by breaking ranks and choosing to shake hands with Queen Elizabeth yesterday.
Michael Browne, who is seriously ill and was using a wheelchair yesterday, defied Sinn Féin’s policy of boycotting events associated with the royal visit and is believed to be the first representative from his party to shake the Queen’s hand.
One of several local dignitaries invited to welcome the Queen to the Rock of Cashel, Mr Browne said he did not regret his action.
“We all stand by our own political parties as best we can, but there comes a time when people must come before political parties,” he said.
He added: “I welcomed her to Cashel as mayor of Cashel and said I hoped she enjoyed her visit.”
The Queen thanked him and the Duke of Edinburgh then inquired about the various symbols on the mayoral chain he was wearing, he said after the visit.
Mr Browne, who unsuccessfully contested the general election for Sinn Féin in February, has been a town councillor for almost 20 years.
“After all, I was elected by the people of Cashel and elected mayor by the elected members. I hope I did the right thing and insulted nobody by so doing,” he told The Irish Times.
Mr Browne said he was “probably” the first Sinn Féin representative to shake the Queen’s hand. “Sooner or later it was going to happen anyway,” he added.
The party’s press office afterwards released a statement in the name of Muiris Ó Suilleabháin, who was described as the “South Tipperary Sinn Féin spokesperson”.
Mr Ó Suilleabháin said party members in Tipperary were surprised by Mr Browne’s action, “especially as he recently signed a statement against the English queen’s visit to the Rock of Cashel”.
He said Sinn Féin’s position on the visit remained that the party’s elected members should not participate in events related to the trip.
“Sinn Féin’s position on the visit of the English queen to Ireland is that it is premature and we are opposed to it and that its elected members should not attend any of the events related to it,” Mr Ó Suilleabháin said.
Ahead of the election, the Sinn Féin website said Mr Browne was urging voters to “seize the chance to rid the country of the gombeen politics of the past”.
Mr Browne is vice-chairman of the joint policing committee as well as mayor. He is a former Tipperary camogie county board chairman.