Queen Will Shake Martin McGuinness's Hand
Queen and Former IRA Man Will Shake Hands
16:00 UPDATE Handshake will go ahead!
Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness will meet Britain's Queen Elizabeth for the first time next week - and the two will shake hands,
Sinn Féin's Ard Comhairle met in Dublin today to discuss whether Mr McGuinness should attend a function in Belfast, which will be attended by the Queen.
Party leader Gerry Adams said the lunch was not connected to the Queen's jubilee celebrations and said the Ard Chomhairle had agreed in the context of national reconciliation that the invitation could be accepted.
Mr Adams confirmed that Sinn Féin would observe the "civic niceties" at the function and it was likely there would be a handshake.
He acknowledged that the decision would cause difficulties for Republicans, but said Sinn Féin remained committed to nation building and ending partition.
Mr Adams said it had not been a unanimous Ard Comhairle decision but there had been a healthy majority.
"This will understandably cause difficulties for some republicans and nationalists," Mr Adams said.
"Especially for those folks who suffered at the hands of British forces."
Charity Co-Operation Ireland is involved in reconciliation activities on both sides of the border.
Speculation had been building in Ireland this morning that Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, a former IRA member and now the leader of the political republican movement in Northern Ireland and deputy first minister of the province, would shake hands with the Queen during her visit to Northern Ireland next week.
A handshake between McGuinness and the Queen wll be a hugely significant gesture. Sinn Féin previously said it had yet to be presented with a “doable proposition” over such an encounter.
Mr McGuinness has been invited to attend an event with the Queen during her Northern Ireland visit next week by cross-Border charity Co-operation Ireland.
Sinn Féin’s leadership is meeting in Dublin this morning to make a decision on the invitation.
Mr McGuinness, who has admitted being an active member of the IRA in his youth but claims to have left the IRA in 1974, declined to accept an invitation to attend the Queen’s speech in Dublin Castle during her visit to the Republic of Ireland last year.
Co-operation Ireland is hosting an event for the Queen and Irish President Michael D Higgins next Wednesday to celebrate arts and culture across ‘the island of Ireland’.
A spokesman told the Daily Beast: “We are inviting the First Minister and Deputy First Minister to join us.”
The Co-Operation Ireland event will form part of a two-day visit by the Queen to Northern Ireland next week.
Sinn Féin Newry and Armagh MP Conor Murphy told the BBC: “We have a responsibility to contribute to genuine reconciliation and we always were prepared to consider a genuine proposition and we have one on the table,” he said.
“We wanted to ensure we were part of a genuine reconciliation, not some sort of PR exercise but something which has a meaning and can make a contribution to the peace process and can contribute to bringing communities closer together.”
He said Sinn Féin had been consulting its members for the last 48 hours and there was a broad range of views on the proposition.
He acknowledged the loss of the Queen’s cousin Lord Mountbatten in an IRA bomb during the conflict and said the meeting would have more significance when those on both sides have experienced loss.
Mr Murphy said there are significant challenges for Irish republicans with the Queen’s status as head of the armed forces but he said the meeting was about recognizing the contribution the Queen made during her visit to Ireland last year when she visited Dublin’s garden of remembrance, a monument to those who died fighting for Irish freedom, including IRA members.