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Lise Hand: Plenty of hot air -- shame no one's discussing wind energy

Let's face it, Martin McGuinness is a diva. He adores being the centre of attention. He is Mardashian -- the political equivalent of that pneumatic notice-box Kim Kardashian (though the Sinn Fein star is more 'Derry Air' than derriere).

As the host of the British-Irish Council meeting yesterday, Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond should have been King of Stirling Castle, which was once home to Mary Queen of Scots who was beheaded by Elizabeth I, who is a distant cousin of Elizabeth II.

And this is where the North's Deputy First Minister came in.

There's nothing that Sinn Fein relishes more than ramping up a news molehill into an Everest of fevered headlines, and the party had been busily whipping up speculation about what would happen next week when Marty meets Lizzie.

Will the former IRA man shake the hand of the British monarch when they meet in Belfast next week when the queen is in the North as part of her jubilee tour? It will indeed be another notable milestone along the long march of the peace process, but Sinn Fein had elevated it to full hoohah status by yesterday through a wearisome round of press conferences and summits and pow-wows and all sorts.

With the result that, in Scotland, where Martin and the North's First Minister Peter Robinson -- oh, and the Taoiseach -- were attending the council meeting, poor Alex Salmond (a chap partial to publicity himself) barely got a look in.

In vain, the deposed Scotsman tried to lay down the law to the media before the press conference kicked off in the beautiful Great Hall where kings and queens once dined. "We'll restrict the discussion to what was on the agenda of the council meeting," Alex decreed, "because the matters discussed are of huge importance."

A disobedient reporter shot to her feet. "Martin, will you shake the queen's hand?" she asked. "Can I just say that obviously that wasn't a matter that was discussed at the British Irish Council," seethed a smouldering Salmond, "but I'll let Martin have a single sentence on it."

Mardashian, of course, doesn't do single sentences. He pointed out that he had already acknowledged "the very powerful speech that she made in Dublin Castle in support of the peace process during which she freely acknowledged the suffering of all, including Irish republicans.

"She stood in reverence at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin and she honoured the Irish language by speaking a few words very eloquently indeed. From that perspective, all of these things have been taken into consideration."

When Peter Robinson was prevailed upon for his opinion on the possible handshake, he chose his words carefully, saying it would be "helpful" if "Martin finds himself in a position to do so".

Alex was the Sighing Scotsman. Nobody wanted to talk about wind energy initiatives at all.

Outside in the castle garden, the Taoiseach was in little doubt as to what Martin was going to do: "Clearly time has moved on and the Deputy First Minister, in my view, will shake hands." (He was right, as another flurry of Sinn Fein statements proved an hour later.)

The Taoiseach wanted to play down the whole fuss in any case. "It's not the first time a Sinn Fein representative met a member of royalty," he said.

Sure enough, when the queen was at the Rock of Cashel last year she shook hands with the local Sinn Fein lord mayor, and the sky failed to fall in.

Irish Independent