Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein deputy McGuinness ponders Queen meeting

By Anna Maguire

Martin McGuinness has sent out his strongest signal yet that he is willing to meet the Queen for the first time.

The Queen will visit Northern Ireland later this year as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Last night, the former IRA leader said gestures made by the Queen on her first state visit to the Republic last May could not be ignored.

At the time Sinn Fein declined to attend a programme of functions organised as part of the historic royal visit to Ireland.

They included a dinner at Dublin Castle — where the Queen spoke a few words of Irish in her address to assembled delegates.

She also laid a wreath at Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance for the leaders of the 1916 Rising.

Traditionally Sinn Fein members stay away from events the monarch attends on visits to Northern Ireland.

However, last night, Mr McGuinness said the party would take stock before any decision is made.

The Deputy First Minister also spoke of his desire to represent everyone in Northern Ireland.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness pictured at the Setanta Sports Cup quarter final between Linfield and Derry City at Windsor Park

“I want to be Deputy First Minister for everyone, for the unionist people, for the loyalists, for the Protestants, for the dissenters and those who don't believe in anything,” he said.

“As regards how we’d deal with the situation, there’ll be some dialogue and discussion about what we might have to deal with in the period ahead.

“I'm sure it’ll be done in a civilised and cordial fashion.

“Obviously, I'd have some of my own ideas of how we should approach such a situation.”

Last September, Mr McGuinness — who was running in the Republic’s presidential race — said he would be prepared to meet the Queen if elected.

Last night, reflecting on the Queen's historic visit to Dublin, he told RTE: “Was I pleased that she spoke Irish at Dublin Castle? I was.

“Was I pleased that she stood very reverently to honour those who had given their lives in the Easter Rising for Ireland's freedom?

“I was impressed by that. But what was I most impressed with?

“I was most impressed with her speech in Dublin Castle when she talked about how we could all have wished that things could have been done differently or not at all.

“When she said that — that was her acknowledgement — this is my interpretation — that Britain could have done an awful lot of things better in the past.

“So all of that has to be taken into account before final decisions are made,” said the MLA.

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