Monday 11 December 2017

How Queen Elizabeth set the scene for this historic moment in history of the island

WHILE it has been claimed that Queen Elizabeth is not "in the business of doing deals", she is being widely credited with clinching the historic meeting with Sinn Fein.

For while republican leaders have often had to carefully prepare their grassroots for such symbolic moves, in this case it is the Queen who seems to have done the spade work.

Her ground-breaking state visit to the Republic last year made the latest development in the peace process possible.

The series of engagements she carried out alongside the then president of Ireland Mary McAleese were viewed as healing gestures on such a dramatic scale that they astounded many across the divided island.

In one of the most dramatic moments the Queen laid a wreath in Dublin's Garden of Remembrance which honours the generations of republicans who died fighting British rule in Ireland.

There was also a royal visit to Croke Park, the 80,000 stadium that is the headquarters of the GAA.

And at a special banquet in her honour the Queen also impressed observers by speaking in Irish.

The cultural gestures - seen as public displays of respect to the first language and sports that her predecessors had historically sought to curb - had a major impact across Ireland.

And in a carefully crafted address the Queen went even further by expressing her wish that Ireland's troubled history with Britain could have been different.

It was not lost on the Irish public that, while republicans have highlighted the royal family's role in representing Britain's armed forces, the Queen has also suffered personally as a result of the decades of violence.

The IRA murdered her cousin Lord Mountbatten in a bombing on his boat in Co Sligo in 1979 that also killed one of his twin grandsons Nicholas Knatchbull aged 14, and Co Fermanagh 15-year-old Paul Maxwell.

A further victim of the attack was Lady Doreen Brabourne who was mother-in-law of Lord Mountbatten's daughter.

The royal meeting in Belfast follows cross-community gestures by Stormont leaders Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness - but both men have said this encounter is a major step.

The meeting with the Queen fits in with Sinn Fein's stated desire to reach out to unionists.

And at a time when the party is expanding its position south of the Irish border, the handshake may help its efforts to secure a position in the political mainstream in the Republic.

In the build-up to the meeting between the Queen and Mr McGuinness, Sinn Fein signalled its need for political choreography around the encounter to help deliver a "do-able proposition".

Mr Robinson said at the time that the he did not believe the Queen was "in the business of doing deals", but it can now be argued that her efforts to heal old wounds helped seal this particular political agreement.

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