Martin McGuinness and Queen to shake hands 'in private' during landmark meeting next week

 

Martin McGuinness will hold a landmark meeting with the Queen when she visits Belfast next week, his Sinn Fein party confirmed today following months of speculation about an formal encounter between royalty and republicans.

The decision had long been expected, though there were last-minute difficulties about the precise context in which it would take place.

Sinn Fein refused to agree to a meeting linked to the large-scale jubilee party which is to be held in the grounds of Stormont, the Belfast seat of government.

Although the party has brushed aside many of its old taboos in recent years, it clearly drew the line at having Mr McGuinness, who is Northern Ireland's deputy first minister, associated with the spectacle of more than ten thousand flag-waving royalists.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said: "This will understandably cause difficulty for republicans and nationalists, especially those who have suffered at the hands of British forces." But he added that the move reflected a "genuine desire to embrace our unionist neighbours".

It was announced that the Queen will meet Mr McGuinness, a former IRA commander, in an Anglo-Irish setting rather than at a specifically British event. This will not be a jubilee event, but a reception organised by Cooperation Ireland, a peace-building charity.

The organisation said it would invite "a small number of guests to recognise and celebrate the transformational strength of the arts and culture across the community in Northern Ireland and throughout Ireland."

Those invited will include Mr McGuinness and his unionist partner in government, first minister Peter Robinson.

The Queen, who is due to visit Northern Ireland on Tuesday and Wednesday, is joint patron of Co-operation Ireland with Irish President Michael D. Higgins.

The Sinn Fein decision was widely seen as inevitable since the republicans are regarded as having missed a trick when they boycotted the Queen's visit to Dublin a year ago.

That visit was hailed as a resounding success and indeed a historic moment in Anglo-Irish relations, especially when the Queen dressed in green and, to general surprise and delight, spoke several words of Irish in a speech.

She was applauded for being prepared to consign decades of Anglo-Irish friction to the past. In meeting Mr McGuinness she will be aware that the organisation he once led assassinated her relative, Lord Mountbatten.

On that occasion Sinn Fein found itself excluded from the general outpouring of goodwill. The irony was that the party has often been prepared to discard many facets of traditional republican policy, but during that royal event it held back.

There have been some low-level rumbles of discontent among republican ranks about a meeting with the Queen, who is immensely popular among Northern Ireland Protestants but holds less appeal for many Catholics and nationalists.

But there has been no outright opposition from within republican ranks, with most activists appearing relatively relaxed about the prospect.

The charity's chief executive Peter Sheridan, a former Belfast police officer, said of the reception: "It is something that demonstrates to ordinary people out there that we have gotten to the stage where we can acknowledge each other with respect." He described it as "part of the healing process."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Tax Manager / Accountant

£35 - £50k DOE: Guru Careers: A Tax Manager / Accountant (ACA / CA / CTA) is n...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketing Operative

£6 - £15 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a well e...

Recruitment Genius: Data Scientist

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Full Stack Software Developer - Javascript

£18000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen