McGuinness and the Queen: All about choreography rather than principle

Useful conversation on UTV last night between Brian Feeney and Alex Kane on ‘the deal’ that apparently is ongoing regarding Martin McGuinness’s ‘price’ for shaking hands with the Queen:

It’s all about choreography. In particular Feeney says its about photographs [What, again? – Ed]. Photographs of Martin stuck with the UK’s head of state and a sea of Union flags at his back.

And over at the Beeb, Mark Devenport notes McGuinness’s line was that it was a huge ask for republicans [What, no word about the poor old Queen? – Ed].

Yet just over a year ago, with exception of the Mayor of Cashel, the party held the line against meeting with her royal personage. Then on the first day of campaigning in the Presidential election Martin volunteered that if elected, he would meet the Queen.

So, aside from choreography, it is hard to know what the problem is. Not least when every other republican party on the island has long since reconciled itself (14 years after that all island plebescite) to meeting the head of the United Kingdom.

Mark quotes a republican source:

…there’s a real debate within republican ranks about the wisdom of meeting a monarch. According to this version the political process is more “paper thin” than commentators sometimes believe.

But as he also notes:

…the cynic in me wonders whether Sinn Fein simply want to inject uncertainty into the proceedings in order to create more suspense prior to announcing a positive decision.

The party have long been masters of clever news management.


And when there’s not much else happening in what passes for Northern Ireland’s political world, why not keep the suspense going a little long by cashiering the bulk of your MPs from Stormont and having a very public ‘think’ about something most pundits reckon you’ve already decided?

As Devenport closes, he says of McGuinness:

…in recent years he’s been proud to take big steps. Would he be happy if the ard comhairle box him in to what might be seen as a limited, constrained response as opposed to the more expansive gesture he has previously hinted at?

If it’s no secret what your final decision is going be (regardless of the negotiations), then the party’s hand in negotiations with the Secretary of State and the NIO will hardly be that strong.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty