Monday, June 18, 2012

A Sinn Féin tease

A Sinn Féin tease

Fri, Jun 15, 2012

AT STORMONT this week Sinn Féin called a press conference where some reporters expected to hear a definitive statement on whether the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness would meet Queen Elizabeth when she visits Northern Ireland on June 26th and 27th.

Instead the Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams detailed how the party was ending its Stormont/House of Commons dual mandate in the coming weeks with Mr McGuinness shortly to stand down as MP for Mid-Ulster. Its four other MPs – Pat Doherty, Conor Murphy, Michelle Gildernew and Paul Maskey – will resign from the Northern Assembly to concentrate, as Mr Adams put it, on areas such as lobbying in Britain and promoting the case for Irish unity.
Not surprisingly this caused some raised eyebrows. These are senior party figures – Ms Gildernew and Mr Murphy are former ministers in the Executive – prompting some renewed speculation that Sinn Féin may be considering ending its Westminster abstentionist policy. Mr Adams, however, said they would not be taking their seats in the Commons but one imagines he will be happy that he has left the public wondering about Sinn Féin’s ultimate intentions over Westminster.
More importantly, however, Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness also left people guessing as to whether the latter will meet Queen Elizabeth when she visits the North as part of her jubilee celebrations. The two said such an encounter was a “big ask” for republicans and not “doable” at the moment. Mr Adams would not say what would make it “doable”. It did not sound like Sinn Féin’s final pronouncement on the matter.

In recent months senior figures have been making much play about reaching out to unionists and respecting their traditions. All the signals seemed to point to Mr McGuinness meeting Queen Elizabeth.

Sinn Féin, of course, will garner as much propaganda from the issue as is possible but it would be wise not to overplay its hand. Shaking hands with Queen Elizabeth, possibly in a private of semi-private setting, would involve some political risk for Mr McGuinness and Sinn Féin, but risk it is well capable of managing.

In the spirit of further improving relationships within the North and between the islands – as the queen did when she visited the Republic – Mr McGuinness should cut out the posturing and procrastination, quickly and boldly state he will meet Queen Elizabeth at the end of this month. And then do the deed with good grace.

Some Facts to Ponder
In July, 2007, the Deputy First Minister of the Stormont government defiantly stood on the same stage with his sworn enemies from the Orange Order on the National Mall in Washington, DC, something that he wouldn’t dream of doing in his own country. To add insult to injury, this event took place during the week of the Fourth of July, a holiday when we Americans celebrate our revolution against all forms of religious prejudice.
The vilest forms of religious prejudice, such as the demonstrations against innocent Catholic schoolchildren at the Holy Cross School in Ardoyne, North Belfast in 2001, are still practiced against Catholics in the North of Ireland on a daily basis by Orange Order bigots and their supporters.
He condemns young Irish republicans whose beliefs regarding British influence in the politics of the North do not agree with his since he had his epiphany some years ago. He continues to verbally vilify the Brits but has no problem accepting a paycheck and all the perks that go with his office from them every month.
What will the outcome of all of this be? After “keeping the world on the edge of their seats” for several weeks, Deputy First Minister McGuinness will most likely end up shaking hands with Lizzy Windsor at some clandestine meeting place far  from the probing eyes of the press. Realistically, in the final analysis, does anybody really give a damn?

Jack Meehan, 
Past National President

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