Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Sinn Fein Ard Fheis: Royal liaison must be sincere or it should not take place: UUP man

Sinn Fein Ard Fheis Day 2. President of Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams lifts Senator Kathryn Reilly up in celebration after he delivered his Presidential address at the end of the Party's Ard Fheis at the INEC, Killarney.
Sinn Fein Ard Fheis Day 2. Vice President of Sinn Fein May Lou McDonald says hello to Toireasa Ferris and husband Pat Kelly with their 2 week old baby Seana at the party's Ard Fheis at the INEC, Killarney.
Sinn Fein Ard Fheis Day 2. President of Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams gestures to his watch to ask the delegates to stop applauding so he can deliver his Presidential address at the end of the Party's Ard Fheis at the INEC, Killarney.

David Thompson is the sort of unionist that Sinn Fein have been engaging with for years.

He believes Martin McGuinness should think hard about meeting the Queen and should only do so if he is prepared to accept that she is head of state of the UK, including Northern Ireland.

Mr Thompson is a UUP member who was once David Trimble’s envoy to the Garvaghy Road talks in Portadown, where he remains active in community work.

He attended the ard fheis for the Integrated Education Fund, because he knows so many people within Sinn Fein. He gets on with Martina Anderson, the junior minister who he first met at a summer school in south Armagh organised by Coiste na nIarchimí, a republican ex-prisoners group of which she is a member.

At the conference he said she “pointed me to a couple of funding areas in the OFMDFM which we can apply to”.

When the debates were over he enjoyed a couple of drinks in the hotel bar, chatting with delegates.

“I didn’t feel threatened in terms of personal security but I do feel challenged in terms of my views,” he said, welcoming Martin McGuinness’s statement in his speech that “the war is over”.

There is an easy relationship and an instinctive grasp of republican thinking. That is why his caution on a meeting with the Queen is interesting.

“If Martin meets the Queen it has to be sincere, not tokenistic,” he said. “He must recognise her for what she is, the head of state of the United Kingdom.”

Mr Thompson continued: “If he feels he can’t do that he would be better just leaving it and not meeting her.”

The Queen is expected to visit Northern Ireland in late June or early July and Sinn Fein has allowed the expectation to build that there will be a meeting, though their Ard Comhairle has yet to make a final decision.

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