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Sinn Fein won't veto plan for a jubilee gift to Queen

By Liam Clarke

The Executive will give a gift to the Queen to mark her Diamond Jubilee — and Sinn Fein will not block it.

The formal proposal will be put to the Executive by Peter Robinson, the First Minister. Under cross-community rules Sinn Fein could veto the proposal, but has agreed not to do so.

This marks a major shift in approach by Sinn Fein and will strengthen speculation Martin McGuinness could meet the Queen when she visits Northern Ireland in the next few weeks.

Last year Sinn Fein would not support a wedding gift for Prince William and Kate Middleton.

On that occasion some ministers took up a collection amongst themselves and bought the royal couple a collection of specially commissioned monogrammed Irish bed linen from Fergusons of Banbridge.

This was then sent to the couple on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland, although no public funds were involved.

The first hint of the thaw in attitudes was given by Deputy First Minister McGuinness on the floor of the Assembly yesterday when he commented on the Diamond Jubilee.

“We recognise that many people here wish to celebrate the occasion and we understand that there are many opportunities to enable those who wish to celebrate to do so. Any proposal for a gift brought to the Executive will no doubt be considered along side other Executive business.” He was responding to a question from the TUV’s Jim Allister about a gift.

Mr Allister said: “This would be something of a test as to whether or not the republican veto was exercised on that matter”, and suggested a donation should also go to the Queen’s Jubilee Trust.

Mr McGuinness said he hadn’t heard of the fund but that the Executive would consider it, saying: “I absolutely understand that within our society here in the North there are hundreds of thousands of people who hold Queen Elizabeth in very high esteem.

“I respect their right to do so. I think that I have passed many tests over the course of the last 20 odd years in relation to the peace process. I intend to continue to work forward.”

Gregory Campbell of the DUP told Mr McGuinness that “most people would accept that the present situation is better than murdering the Queen’s uncle” a reference to the IRA killing of Lord Mountbatten, who was, in fact, the Queen’s cousin and the uncle of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Mr Campbell asked if Mr McGuinness would agree “that the best gift that her majesty could give to the people of Northern Ireland is for both her and her successors to continue to reign over the people of Northern Ireland?”

Mr McGuinness said that Mr Campbell “has different political allegiance to me but the beauty of the agreements that his party and my party have entered into with other parties in this assembly is that we have transformed the political and security situation in the north to the enormous benefit of citizens. That work has to continue and what we have to do without attempting to politically point score is to move forward sensitively.”

Factfile

Scotland and Wales are giving jubilee gifts that will remain in their own regions.

  • In Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond is expected to announce two |jubilee gifts, one a boost for tourism and another a donation in the Queen’s name to a charity.
  • The Welsh Assembly held a Diamond Jubilee debate yesterday. Later this week it will announce a memorial to the Queen’s reign in Wales.

Belfast Telegraph

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