Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott has accused Sinn Fein of attempting to “bamboozle” Irish voters after the acting Deputy First Minister said the time is not right to meet the Queen.
A fortnight ago Martin McGuinness, who temporarily stepped down as Deputy First Minister to focus on his Irish presidential bid, said he would meet the Queen if elected as the Republic’s head of state.
But yesterday Mr McGuinness’ replacement John O’Dowd said the circumstances are not yet right for a Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister to meet the Queen.
Mr O’Dowd, who is also Education Minister, told the BBC's Inside Politics that “the situation here is different”.
“It would depend on the circumstances and what events led up to such a meeting,” he said.
“I don't believe the circumstances, as they are now, are right to do that.”
Mr Elliott accused Sinn Fein of being “wholly inconsistent” and described the situation as “a political pantomime”.
“In Northern Ireland, it’s the politics of refusal and boycott but across the border, they’d be prepared to meet and greet Her Majesty. Two policies on the one subject is a bit rich even by their standard.
“This is laughable, a political pantomime well ahead of the Christmas show season. It’s a poor attempt to bamboozle voters.”
Earlier this month Mr McGuinness was asked how he would handle another Royal visit to Ireland, given his party's position on the Queen's trip.
He said: “If the people of Ireland decide that I should be their president, my responsibilities and duties would be to meet heads of state from all over the world and to do that without exception and that would be my position.”