Belfast Telegraph

McGuinness hints at royal meeting

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness has given his clearest signal to date that he is willing to meet Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.

At a Dublin conference to mark the success of the peace process, the Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister said he would not be found wanting when compromises need to be made.

Mr McGuinness, who recently said he would not rule out meeting Queen Elizabeth as part of efforts to build bridges with unionists, challenged his own community to foster reconciliation.

In response to questions on whether this would stretch to a royal meeting as the British monarch celebrates her Jubilee year, Mr McGuinness pointed to his track record.

"It's making clear that the enormous progress that's been made in recent times has been made because politicians have been prepared to compromise," he said. "Compromise to me in the peace process is never a dirty word.

"There are big challenges ahead for all of us. Not just for me, but others in the process. We all have to be big enough to rise to these challenges. Am I big enough to rise to these challenges? Absolutely. My track record shows that's the case."

The British Queen is expected to visit Northern Ireland as she marks her Jubilee year. There is also speculation that she will be invited to open the new £90 million Giant's Causeway visitor centre on the north coast of Antrim in the summer.

The Dublin conference was attended by a string of high-profile figures linked to the search for peace and the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, and included First Minister Peter Robinson, who urged his colleague in the Stormont Executive to take the leap and meet Queen Elizabeth.

"I think it would be a step that should be taken. I made the gesture of meeting the head of state here in the Irish Republic. Meeting the President of the Irish Republic is now something that people would take in their stride in Northern Ireland," Mr Robinson said.

"If he meets Her Majesty it would become the norm. Meeting members of the royal family would become part of everyday political life."

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