Thursday 22 February 2018

The Queen must have found 'handshake' difficult admits Martin McGuinness

Richard Alleyne

MARTIN McGuinness acknowledged today that it must have been "difficult" for the Queen to have met him as the IRA had murdered her cousin.

The former IRA commander said he was "conscious" of how uncomfortable she must have felt knowing that his terrorist colleagues had murdered Lord Mountbatten in 1979.

The deputy first minister of Northern Ireland made the comments as he spoke on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme of the "very positive engagement" he had with the Queen in Belfast on Wednesday

John Humphrys, the presenter, said: "Were you conscious of the fact that she would have been thinking this is a man whose colleagues murdered my cousin?"

He said: "I was very conscious of that.

"I also understood or recognised that this would be a difficult meeting for Queen Elizabeth but I think both of us entered the project with good grace."

Mr McGuinness insisted that the Northern Irish peace process remained a route map to the "perfectly reasonable and legitimate" reunification of Ireland.

He said that it was not an "extreme" view to think that a "historical wrong" should be righted and the country could return to the Republic.

"I approach all this as an Irish Republican, as somebody who wants convince people in Britain and indeed their elective representatives that they should become involved as persuaders to bring about the eventual reunification of Ireland," he said.

"I don't think it is daft to appeal to the people of Britain to recognise that an historical wrong should be righted.

"We have a route map to do that. The British government have recognised the fact that the if the people vote to end their links with Britain then they are duty bound to legislate to do that.

"That is a perfectly reasonable and legitimate political objective and aspiration for Sinn Fein to work towards and also perfectly legitimate to appeal to people to support that.

"There is absolutely nothing extreme about that. I think it is highly offensive to us that people would try to portray that as some sort of extreme view."

He said that the historic handshake was "highly symbolic"

"I think I was very conscious of the highly symbolic nature of what was about to happen. We don't rush into these things. it was very carefully considered.

"I thought that this was a real opportunity to extend the hand of friendship, peace and reconciliation to those hundreds of thousands of unionists in the north who have a great affinity for the Queen, Queen Elizabeth.

"This was an opportunity to continue to propel the peace process forward to the next essential stage which is one of national reconciliation upon the island of Ireland."

He said it was a "very positive engagement".

"I think it was a very powerful engagement," he said.

"I think that it sends a very powerful message about where we need to go and it also clearly makes a statement to the world that we are in the leadership of what is clearly the most successful peace in the world today.

"Quite clearly things have changed, been transformed over the course of recent years."

He criticised David Cameron for dragging his heels on the process.

"We cannot be uncritical whenever stupid decisions are made," he said.

"I think it is not lost on people that me and Peter Robinson (First Minister) have met with Mr Obama more times than we have met with David Cameron.

"The conflict that occurred is because people were treated as second class citizens. As a result of that we had a tremendous amount of bigotry and sectarianism. We do still have those divisions.

"We do have a responsibility to work together."

Thomas McMahon, 31, was convicted of the murder of Lord Mountbatten and two of his relatives in a bomb blast on his boat.

He had been detained in the area by police on suspicion of driving a stolen car two hours before the bomb went off.

McMahon was set free in 1998 under the Good Friday Agreement.

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