Former DUP first ministers welcome Sinn Fein letter to Queen on Platinum Jubilee

Dame Arlene Foster and Paul Givan praised the republican party for the gesture.

Michelle O’Neill and Arlene Foster (Liam McBurney/PA)
Michelle O’Neill and Arlene Foster (Liam McBurney/PA)

Two former DUP first ministers have welcomed a Sinn Fein move to write to the Queen on the occasion of the Platinum Jubilee.

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill wrote to the Queen to praise her “significant” contribution to the peace process and to acknowledge her “dedicated public service to the British people” during her 70 years on the throne.

Ms O’Neill thanked the Queen for her “warmth and unfailing courtesy” on the occasions when the pair have met and wrote of the “value and respect” she had for the monarch’s contribution to reconciliation.

Former DUP leader Dame Arlene Foster praised Ms O’Neill’s gesture while DUP MLA Paul Givan, who also served as first minister, said it showed the progress that had been achieved in Northern Ireland in recent years.

Both politicians served as first minister alongside Ms O’Neill as deputy first minister.

Your Platinum Jubilee is an historic moment, especially for all those from the unionist and British tradition on the island of Ireland

Michelle O'Neill, in letter to the Queen

“Obviously, I very much welcome it,” Dame Arlene told BBC Radio Ulster.

She said the Platinum Jubilee celebrated three things – the Queen’s public service and dedication; the institution of the monarchy; and the concept of Britishness.

Dame Arlene added: “I think for republicans, like Michelle O’Neill, like Nicola Sturgeon, they have recognised in Her Majesty the Queen the first of those, the fact that she has given so much service to the country.

“They’re recognising that and I think that that is something that is to be welcomed.”

Michelle O’Neill and Paul Givan (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Givan told the PA news agency: “I do welcome that and I think it follows on with what the late Martin McGuinness did in terms of meeting with the Queen, and I think to how the royal family have responded to Sinn Fein and republican representatives recognising the monarchy’s place in Northern Ireland and the Queen has often been incredibly gracious.

“I think of members of the royal family murdered by the Provisional IRA and yet the Queen has been able to show that respect, and forgiveness indeed, in how she has approached that.

“I think that’s a sign of the progress that we’re making and it’s something that I welcome Sinn Fein making that progress forward and the steps that they’ve taken as well.”

Ms O’Neill’s letter to the Queen, which was sent last month and reported by the Belfast Telegraph on Thursday, read: “I thought it best to write to you personally as you mark 70 years of dedicated public service to the British people as Monarch.

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill has written to the Queen (Liam McBurney/PA)

“Your Platinum Jubilee is an historic moment, especially for all those from the unionist and British tradition on the island of Ireland, and across these islands whom with great pride and devotion hold you very dear.

“Personally, I wish to thank you for your warmth and unfailing courtesy on the occasions in which both I and my late colleague, Martin McGuinness, met with you in Belfast in 2012 during your Diamond Jubilee, and thereafter at Windsor Castle during the State Visit of President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins to the UK in 2014.

“I wish to record the value and respect I place on the significant contribution you have made to the advancement of peace and reconciliation between the different traditions on our island, and between our two islands during those years of the peace process.

“As incoming First Minister of the Northern Ireland Executive I, like you, will take every opportunity to strengthen the bonds of friendship and renew the spirit of co-operation between those of us in the world of politics and public life from different traditions, and also the people and communities we proudly represent.”

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