Belfast's Sinn Fein Lord Mayor Martin O Muilleoir tells our Young Editors about meeting the Queen ... and taking part in Armistice Day
'Let's see if we can move into an era where we don't say no so often'
Martin O Muilleoir has become the first Sinn Fein Lord Mayor to meet the Queen.
He travelled to London yesterday along with the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Oisin Quinn, where the two men made history by meeting the British monarch together at Windsor Castle as part of Irish President Michael D Higgins' state visit to the UK.
Mr O Muilleoir also visited the Tourism Ireland offices in central London as well as taking in Ceiliúradh, a celebration of Irish culture in the Royal Albert Hall.
"There has been a difficulty in recent years that when a mayor from the Sinn Fein tradition comes in and is unable to meet a royal, it creates a moment of division and we should, as far as possible, try to avoid those moments," he said.
"I don't think I am going to have the royals in every day of the year, but let's just see if we can move into a new era where we don't say no as often as we might have in the past."
In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph Young Editors, Mr O Muilleoir spoke for the first time about the long negotiations which took place to enable him to take part in Armistice Day at City Hall.
"I think that was the most difficult thing I have done in my political career," he said. "Unfortunately in this part of the world remembrance is association with celebration of the British Army, that's not something I would like to subscribe to.
"We managed, through the good offices of the British Legion, who were very generous, to create an event which was inclusive and remembering all the dead with respect which would still create a healing moment in the city."
Our Young Editors also put the Lord Mayor on the spot about tackling the negative impact of alcohol and youth unemployment.
"The two days that cause me some sadness are St Patrick's Day and the Twelfth of July," said Mr O Muilleoir. "Two days which should be about fun and family, rather than confrontation."
The Lord Mayor also said youth unemployment worried him and he didn't want to see a race to the bottom on wages.
"Tourism is an area that is going to grow, but we need to find ways of creating well-paid jobs too.
"I am really sad when I see so many of our young people going to Australia or Canada, we are losing the cream."
View from our Young Editors
“Considering a visit by Sinn Fein to Windsor Castle would have been unthinkable 10 years ago, I find it encouraging to see such an important advance.
"I look forward to seeing what will happen in the next 10 years. Perhaps this will no longer be a news story but a regular occurrence.”
“I think that the presidential visit is important to include in today’s edition because this could have a massive impact on young people’s lives.
"The event is a turning point in English and Irish history and the young people of today need to realise this growth in relations.”