Queen and Ireland's Sinn Fein prepare to make history

Queen ireland
Queen Elizabeth enters Croke Park stadium on May 18, 2011 with then-Irish President Mary McAleese and Gaelic Athletic Association president Christy Cooney. The Queen's visit to Croke Park highlighted the vast improvement in Anglo-Irish relations. The stadium was the site of 1920's Bloody Sunday, when 14 Irish civilians were killed by British troops. (Reuters)

It may only turn out to be a handshake, but it may be the most important exchange yet in the age-old conflict that has split Northern Ireland.

2012-06-22T171126Z_01_DMR09_RTRMDNP_3_IRELAND-QUEENOn Wednesday, one of the leaders of the Sinn Fein party -- the political arm that grew from the now-defunct Irish Republican Army -- will attend a reception with Queen Elizabeth in Belfast.

Sinn Fein leaders agreed on Friday that one of their own, former IRA commander Martin McGuinness (right), will meet the Queen in his role as deputy first minister of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government.

When the Queen made her historic trip to the Republic of Ireland last year -- regarded as a major step toward reconciliation -- the Sinn Fein leadership refused to meet her, symbolically keeping their distance from an acknowledgement of her as Queen of Ireland.

This time, after decades of bloodshed on both sides, party leadership is willing to stretch out its hand, at least for a moment.

“This will understandably cause difficulties for some republicans and nationalists, but it is good for Ireland,” said Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, looking on the meeting as a “symbolic and significant step” in the peace process.

However, he was quick to also point out that the party is not retreating from its basic republican values. “After Martin McGuinness completes this engagement, he will be as true, as staunch, as active a republican as he ever was.”

This will not be an easy gesture on the Queen’s part, either. Like many, she too has been hit hard by the violence over the decades. Lord Mountbatten, her cousin and Prince Philip’s uncle, was targeted and killed by an IRA bomb in 1979.

The scheduled meeting has brought much reaction from both sides. Lord Tebbit, who was injured in a bomb blast in 1984, hopes it is a step toward “confessing and repenting for the crimes of IRA/Sinn Fein.”

The most likely reading of it, though, is an acknowledgement that both Britian and Northern Ireland have suffered greatly, and the slow march along the path to peaceful co-existence must continue.

"Inevitably past victims of IRA atrocities will be upset,” Peter Hain, former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, told the BBC. “Many Republicans will see it as a betrayal.

"But what it shows is that both Martin McGuinness and Her Majesty are saying that the future is much more important than the past. If we get stuck in the past we will never make any progress."

The planned reception on Wednesday, organized by Cooperation Ireland, will also include Irish President Michael D. Higgins and First Minister Peter Robinson.

An estimated 3,000 people died during the bloodiest years of conflict. The hardline violence of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s eventually gave way to an uneasy peace agreement in 1998, but there are still occasional republican-inspired attacks on the British.

Security concerns kept the Queen from any official visits to the Republic of Ireland until last May, when she scored major diplomatic points in her speeches that expressed regret over the conflict without assigning blame.

Anti-monarchy graffiti is pictured on a wall in west Belfast. Martin McGuinness, the ex-IRA commander turned Northern Ireland's deputy first minister, will meet Queen Elizabeth in a historic first for the peace process, Sinn Fein has anounced. (GettyImages)


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This article is inaccurate - the event at which the Queen and Martin McGuinness will meet is NOT part of the Jubilee celebrations but a separate event sponsored by Cooperation Ireland. Secondly, the Queen visited the Republic of Ireland last year, not Northern Ireland.

Get it right, please!

This article is rife with startling errors.

To begin with, there is no, nor has there been, a "war between Britain and Northern Ireland". Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The conflict is one internal to Northern Ireland.

Second, the Queen did not make an historic trip to Northern Ireland last year. That historic trip was made to the Republic of Ireland, the first for a British monarch in a century.

Third, the articles speaks of acknoweldging her as "Queen of Ireland". The Queen is not Queen of Ireland. She never has been. She is Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (in addition, of course, to being Queen of 15 other independent nations, including Canada).

It is good news to see this handshake take place. Although symbolic it is so important to see further progress down this path towards reconcilliation and peace. I am not sure what the future of Ireland should be. Yet one thing should be achieved is that that a clear majority should choose. One thing I might suggest is a kind of commonwealth of the Irish. It should never be one winning over the other as in Dublin over Belfast or vice versa.

Another great example of how the elimination of all religions would prevent such problems as this. Having just returned from a trip to the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, I was surprised to find that this idiotic hatred is still brewing and has not gotten much better as the governments would have you believe. As a matter of fact, since the 2008 world financial downturn, tensions have gotten worse and paranoia has grown. I was absolutely amazed to hear how many things do not make it to the news media and are swept under the carpet for fear it will scare away that foreign investment both sides need.

For the sake of accuracy I want to point our a few glaring errors in this article.
1. There has never been a war between Britain and Northern Ireland.
2. The Queen made a "historic trip" to the Republic of Ireland last year. In contrast, she has visited Northern Ireland many times during her lifetime.

"...age-old war between Britain and Northern Ireland."

Huh? There has never been a war "between Britain and Northern Ireland." Rather, there was a military struggle with a small minority of radical Irish nationalist militants *within* Northern Ireland, which is recognized by both Ireland and the rest of the world to part of the UK, even if Ireland wished it were otherwise. Hence "the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland."

Any war has been with those militants/terrorists/guerrillas or whatever you want to call them. The vast majority of the population has been either loyal or, at a minimum, peaceful, and your lede implies otherwise.

Please correct this absurd, provocative and inaccurate statement.

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