Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness says meeting Queen Elizabeth II will show unionists what a reunited Ireland will look like.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’ last night, Mr McGuinness said his decision to meet the British monarch was based on the fact that he must be Deputy First Minister for everyone in Northern Ireland.
He said: “I’m very conscious that I represent a community deeply hurt by British state violence over many years.”
But he added: “This is an opportunity for me to stretch out the hand of peace and reconciliation to the unionist community.” He said the meeting would give the unionist people of the North an idea of “what a reunited Ireland would look like”.
Mr McGuinness made the comments after graffiti criticising his plans to meet and shake hands with the British monarch appeared in the Bogside - two read ‘Marty U Dare’ and ‘Sinn Fein sellouts’.
SDLP MP for Foyle, Mark Durkan, who also attended the Foyle Port event yesterday, said Mr McGuinness’s move was “a good and proper decision.”
He added: “I did it when I was Deputy First Minister and it was right and proper then - although Sinn Fein didn’t agree with that at the time, the fact that they see the need to do this now is right.”
“He’s showing that in the mature, settled arrangements that we have now, we can respect each other, we can respect difference and we can respect each other’s values and traditions.”
However, he said Sinn Fein’s attitude towards Queen Elizabeth II in the past and as recent as last year did not make the move easy for Mr McGuinness.
“Even the language that Sinn Fein were using last year during the Queen’s visit to the south was quite extreme and extravagant - launching a thousand black balloons and all the rest of it. They didn’t believe in national reconciliation through meeting the Queen then - when she literally bowed to the Republic and the Republic’s martyrs - but the fact they’ve seen the way to do that now is a good thing. It’s progress for Sinn Fein and hopefully for all of us now. Irish skies aren’t going to fall in because yet another Republican is going to join the rest of us and shake hands with a British Queen - it’s not subscribing to the British constitutional outlook or being a Royalist, it’s being a realist.”