Belfast Telegraph

Martin McGuinness may meet Queen

By Liam Clarke

Martin McGuinness may meet the Queen and other members of the Royal family in his capacity as Deputy First Minister.

He intends resuming his duties in Stormont immediately after next week's Assembly recess and is likely to be pressed on the issue.

Mr McGuinness undermined the principle of not meeting British royalty by vowing, during his presidential campaign, that if elected he would meet them as part of his duties as head of state.

This was a break from previous Sinn Fein policy of protesting against Royal visits and considering the Queen a legitimate target for the IRA during the Troubles.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph at Dublin Castle, Mr McGuinness hinted that he would be considering his position over the next few days.

He said: "I made it clear that if I was elected president of Ireland I would welcome Queen Elizabeth to this country.

"What you are asking me now about the north is hypothetical - at this stage all I am considering is the result of this election."

Yesterday on BBC radio he was again asked if he would meet the Queen as deputy first minister.

"I think in terms of what I will do as deputy first minister in the time ahead, that is a hypothetical question, but a legitimate one which I will have to ponder over the next while," he replied. If he was elected Irish president he would have resigned from Sinn Fein for the duration of the seven-year term. However, by making it clear that he had no personal objection to dealing with the Windsors, Mr McGuinness has signalled that he has put a question mark over Sinn Fein policy on the issue.

During the election campaign he said he had been reliably informed that Prince Charles would be interested to talk to him.

A meeting with Mr McGuinness might be a personally difficult one for the Prince because the IRA murdered his uncle, Lord Mountbatten, in 1979 - a time when the security forces believed that Mr McGuinness was a member of the IRA's army council.

However Mr McGuinness has claimed that he left the organisation five years earlier. In 1977 the IRA targeted the Queen herself with a bomb planted in Coleraine University, timed to go off during a Royal visit. Mr McGuinness hinted at a changing attitude to the Royal family in a Belfast Telegraph interview in March.

It came shortly after an earlier interview in which Peter Robinson had broken with a long-standing DUP tradition by saying he would not be put off attending funerals if a Mass was said at them.

Mr McGuinness responded by calling for no protests during the Queen's planned visit to Dublin.

Asked if he would be personally prepared for a meeting at that stage he said that he would abide by the decision of Sinn Fein ruling Ard Comhairle.

He outlined the obstacles from a republican point of view. "In the aftermath of the murder of 14 people on Bloody Sunday, the Parachute Regiment was decorated by the Queen.

"If people think that doesn't present a problem for me, quite apart from our view that Ireland should be united, then they are mistaken," he said.

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