Maurice Hayes: SF firebrand and British royal taking a risk for peace
The handshake between Martin McGuinness and Queen Elizabeth will be, by any standards, a historic milestone on the road towards a lasting peace and a more settled and tolerant society. Few could have imagined at any time in the most bloody depths of the past four decades -- least of all the young (or even the ageing) Martin McGuinness -- that the final act of decommissioning would be symbolised by a royal handshake.
The Provisionals' guns have been silent for some years now. Sinn Fein has transformed itself into the semblance of a political party, North and South, and what is being decommissioned now is a mindset in which Irishness is defined by mere Anglophobia and a knee-jerk derision at the symbols of Britishness and the British crown. Instead, a more generous affirmation of the national spirit can display a willingness to accept diversity and live with difference.
Sinn Fein has grown into government in Northern Ireland and is increasingly comfortable in opposition in the Dail.