Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Sinn Fein allows gift for Queen

The Queen will receive a Diamond Jubilee gift from the Northern Ireland government during her visit at the end of June

The Queen is to receive a Diamond Jubilee gift from the Northern Ireland government after Sinn Fein allowed the gesture to go ahead.

The move followed confirmation the Queen will make a two-day visit to Northern Ireland at the end of June, with her itinerary to include Belfast and Enniskillen.

A historic meeting between Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness and the monarch is now thought to be on the cards, even though the party said it has yet to make a decision on the matter.

Advance notice of the Queen's visit was a break with normal security procedure, which Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson hailed as a sign of "changed times".

Ministers meeting at Stormont Castle meanwhile agreed a proposal to present the Queen with a Belleek pottery bowl which will be specially made for the jubilee. Under power-sharing rules at the Assembly, Sinn Fein could have vetoed the plan but in the first move of its kind, the party chose not to do so.

A spokesman for Sinn Fein said: "Peter Robinson proposed that that the Executive mark the British Queen's jubilee with a gift. We fully acknowledge the attachment that many within the unionist community have to the British Royal Family.

"The principles which underpin the political institutions include the need to respect and recognise the different traditions. As Irish republicans, we recognise and respect the diverse nature of our differing allegiances. In that context we did not object to the First Minister's proposal to mark Queen Elizabeth's jubilee with a gift."

Mr McGuinness, a former IRA commander, has acknowledged the Queen's importance to many people in Northern Ireland and indicated he may meet her, a move which would be a significant first for a republican leader.

Sinn Fein's ruling ard chomhairle will have to agree to any such meeting but it is now widely believed that the major step for community relations is in the pipeline.

A meeting and handshake between Mr McGuinness and the Queen would be a hugely symbolic gesture and comes after her historic state visit to the Republic of Ireland last year. While in Dublin she laid a wreath at the Republic's Garden of Remembrance, dedicated to all those who fought for Irish independence from Britain.

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