Martin McGuinness the Queen and Sinn Fein’s “Tiocfaidh ar Lámh”* campaign…

Given the nature of all the agreements made since 1998, the meeting of deputy First Minister and the head of state of United Kingdom (you know the old lady Gerry calls the Queen of England) on Wednesday is probably a good thing. You also have to admit that the headlines it evinced in the main flagship new organisations of two countries was impressive too.

Radio Four’s Six O’Clock News gave it almost five minutes as the top headline. RTE’s Six One News was somewhat less biddable. A slow news day is a good one for such an announcement.

To that extent, Brian Hayes’ criticism of RTE (the Sindo is not the national broadcaster’s greatest fan) and its handling of the issue on Friday may be a little over worked, but he does make some decent points along the way:

The single most important reconciliation event in British/Irish history took place during May of last year when Queen Elizabeth visited this country. The laying of a wreath by the British monarch at the Garden of Remembrance, the respectful bowing of the head to Ireland’s dead, was a highly charged and deeply healing moment. The state dinner in Dublin Castle, a place freighted in history, was an opportunity for political leaders to continue the process of reconciliation between Ireland and Britain.

Martin McGuinness, as Deputy first Minister in Northern Ireland, chose not to attend. He showed bad judgement by not attending. The decision by Sinn Fein not to attend any of the historic events surrounding the royal visit showed a meanness of spirit and a lack of political leadership.

He goes to note the original moral leadership came not from Sinn Fein’s party leadership, but from the late SF Mayor of Cashel last year:

I was there with Minster Howlin that day, representing the government, and I admired the way Browne carried out his duty, even under intense personal and political pressure. The political pressure on Browne came from Sinn Fein. It censured him for his dignified stand in representing his own town. They knew he was terminally ill but went ahead and humiliated him anyway. The party’s stalinist approach to dissent must always be enforced.

The “yes but, no but, maybe” little game is only that — a little game for Sinn Fein to grab a few headlines. Martin McGuinness chickened out last year and now he wants to make a meal out of it.

Denis Murray speaking on Nolan this morning also made a couple of good points in this regard.

One, he confirms Hayes view that this was about catch up in the only game that matters to the northern leadership of Sinn Fein, the move towards some kind of political valency in the Republic.

But also two, that the logic of McGuinness’ role as dFM within the constitutional position of Northern (ie, within the UK) meant he had little choice but to meet the Queen. In short, ‘she da boss’. Albeit a symbolic one.

This a non trivial point (though expect it to be downplayed both here in the comments zone and in wider discourse). Whilst the aim of the policy may have been to play catch up in the south, the party deployed some pretty heavy hitters from the Army side of the movement to get this one past the activists in Northern Ireland.

It gives some proper context for Gerry’s view that this is part of its Unionist outreach programme… [Aye, along with the party’s Ministerial blocking of Protestant applicants at DRD? – Ed]

Iain Martin in his blog at the Telegraph, probably best crystalises Republican fears about what it signals to that group:

…it is a reminder that the British establishment does have a skill for co-opting its enemies. McGuinness posed a monstrous threat to national security, and even to the basic geographical integrity of the United Kingdom. Now he takes a salary and shakes the hand of the Queen. Martin McGuinness appears to have been decommissioned.

On Saturday I spoke to the widow of an Irish Guards officer who had served against the Israelis in Palestine before they gained their independence. She still has old British wanted posters for Menachem Begin and others who went on to provide leadership for the Israeli state.

However there are important differences between one and the other. Begin et al won their independence at the end of their ‘armed struggle’, McGuinness et al could not. Israel’s struggle for independence continued long after the British withdrew. McGuinness and Sinn Fein’s real political struggle for independence/unification is only just beginning.

It may be a great deal harder to resolve than the simplifying binaries of war ever were…

* NB, The title was suggested by Mr Angry it literally means “Our hand will come”, a skit on SF’s old war time slogan “Tiocfaidh ar La”, “Our day will come”.

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  • tyrone_taggart

    !the British establishment does have a skill for co-opting its enemies.”

    I think that is there excuse for having to live with whatever mess they made. Aesop fable of “The Fox and the Grapes”springs to mind when I see such spin put out.

    If “the Queen. In short, ‘she da boss’” then she is responsible for “NI”. Has anyone ever asked her what she personalty tried to do to stop discrimination in NI before the troubles started? What actions did she take to stop the electoral system in NI being abused? As the head of state did she visit a single person who was interned without trial? Why was she not part of the campaign for civil rights???

    Her inaction’s is one thing but the fact I cannot think of a single journalist who as asked her any of those types of questions shows the quality of British journalism.

  • One trusts that bold Lizzie will have no objections to her disarmingly refreshing style of leadership, which would consider and encourage any significant handshake with a reformed and reforming and publicly elected and duly mandated republican representative/leader/equal first minister be anything but a private affair behind closed doors and away from, and off the record of global media, and fully expect the deputised unionist first minister to show the same bold leadership accord with an accompanying, very public handshake with his elected counterpart in public joint ministerial office.

    Such a right royal menage a trois would be just so typically revolutionary of the House of Windsor/Saxe Coburg and quite perfectly ordinary for the occasion, n’est ce pas? Or would that be a giant step and quantum leap too far for bigotry to contemplate and who would be instrumental in that public refusal and slap in the face of Shared Progress with such a headlong tumble at such a tiny and pathetic hurdle?

    “HM expects that every man will do his duty….. and all that” to paraphrase Lord Nelson’s signal to the fleet from HMS Victory. It is what the island want to see and have a brotherly chuckle over at how far one has come in such a short space of time.

  • Mick Fealty

    Re the Queen, her inaction results directly from the constitutional nature of her Monarchy.

  • Alias

    “However there are important differences between one and the other. Begin et al won their independence at the end of their ‘armed struggle’, McGuinness et al could not.”

    The actual important difference is more fundamental, being a matter of principle rather than consequentialism.

    Unlike Jewish militants, the Provisionals could never have been acting to assert the right of national self-determination for the Irish nation since, rather obviously, that nation had already attained its right to national self-determination and had its own sovereign state.

    Since self-determination is a collective right and not an individual right, it is the collective who thereafter determine policy. The Provos were just a group of self-appointed individuals who tried to usurp the right of national self-determination for the Irish nation by denying them their sovereign right to determine their own affairs.

    So they had no understanding of, or respect for, the right of national self-determination and could not have been asserting it anyway since it had already been attained.

    The best way to understand what drove the Provos – since there is no actual ideology behind them – is as a militant protest movement that used its bastardised cover of ‘republicanism’ to legitimise what was essentially a sectarian murder campaign aimed at securing a fair deal for Catholics within the British state.

    They came out of the 1965 aborted internal reforms, and faded away when those reforms were finally completed.

    Of course, without the cover of using violence to achieve national self-determination they are revealed as simply sectarian murderers, and that’s why they still pretend they’re ‘republicans’ rather than accept what they actually are.

  • tyrone_taggart

    “Re the Queen, her inaction results directly from the constitutional nature of her Monarchy.”

    What written constitution? She could have used her “prerogative of mercy” on people put in prison without any trial?

    I would like to know on what grounds she could not have just visited someone put in prison without trial?

  • I can’t help but wonder whether SF’s opposition to the Queen was because of the royalty factor or simply because the monarch is head of state. If the UK royal family had been swept away like the others after WW1 would SF have had no problem meeting an elected republican President? After all, the real power lies with Parliament and SF have had no problem meeting PMs and entering the real seat of power, 10 Downing street.
    As an aside, the largest atrocities in Ireland were carried out by the republican Lord Protector.

  • Mick Fealty


    I did not say it was written (though it is, it’s just not put down in the same place). You can petition her for lots of things, but you have to get past Parliament first…

    Which is why presumeably Enoch had such confidence in its ‘mystical powers’ (see Brian’s post here:

  • Alias

    “I can’t help but wonder whether SF’s opposition to the Queen was because of the royalty factor or simply because the monarch is head of state.”

    It’s a legacy issue that comes from masquerading as ‘republicans’ in order to disguise the true nature of their campaign and where its actual popular support came from. Beyond those legacy ‘republicans’ it isn’t an issue for the wider support base. It’s just a problem that has to be managed so that the self-styled ‘republicans’ can be let down gently.

  • sonofstrongbow

    A predictable piece of foolish mopery to kick off the thread which, as Mick notes, completely fails to understand the constitutional position of HMQ.

    But in the spirit of the thing a little whataboutery is called for; I can’t recall any evidence of Irish Presidents standing on the border driving back the Republican murder gangs as they travelled north.

    One can understand Sinn Fein’s discomfort at meeting the Queen as it brings to the surface the myth-busting reality that Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom. That the Shinners must spend so much time massaging the foot soldiers and cajoling them to ‘accept’ the meeting speaks volumes about how far that constituency is from an understanding that they ‘lost the war’.

    ‘A united Ireland by 2016’, ‘joint authority in every thing but name’ and the legion of other little dishonest bon mots that fall from the lips of the Republican leadership serve only to lead to disappointment and frustration when they proved to be nonsense.

    These regular wrenchings from the green idyll build annoyance and drive some towards the immediacy of seeming to ‘do something’ via the perversion of ‘fighting for a united Ireland’.

    So this week Sinn Fein have an opportunity to do something truly momentous. Let them leave their myth-making in the past, stand down the petty “Queen of England” insults and start to be honest with their electorate.

    Northern Ireland remains part of the UK so long as the majority wish it so. That is not going to change anytime soon. Start getting used to it. Don’t continue to make the same mistake as happened in 1922 when wishing NI away didn’t work either.

    By all means try to persuade people of the ‘merits’ of a UI if that floats your boat but give up on the ‘it’s just around the corner’ vibe.

  • tyrone_taggart

    “You can petition her ”

    Why would anyone need to petition there head of state to look into the matter of people being put in prison without trial? Even has head of the Church of England she should have seen it as her duty to look after the welfare of subjects.

    I don’t think she asked her government could she (and her man) visit Tyrone which they frequently did.

  • tyrone_taggart

    “completely fails to understand the constitutional position of HMQ.”

    Visiting things is part of her non-partisan functions. There was nothing to stop her visiting the prisons in which people were being held without trial.

  • Now we’re getting silly.

  • grandimarkey


    “Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom”


    I understand that without Northern Ireland, the UK becomes Great Britain, but apart from the name, what does Northern Ireland actually contribute to make it so integral?

  • Mick Fealty


    Either you are incredibly stupid, or incredibly determined to distract from the main article. Either way, next stupid remark from you and you can cool yer heels for a fortnight with a Red Card.

  • tyrone_taggart

    “does in the public sphere”

    Who said it had to be in public? A constitutional monarchy claims to represent the interests of the people before they elected this government,

    How many of those wrongly put in prison did she visit afterwards? She would happy visit the Duke of Abercorn in Tyrone and not once did she visit those innocent people who was put in prison by her government.

  • Brave of McGuinness to attend a function where the two principal guests remind him of being a loser in both States.

  • tyrone_taggart

    As I probably going to get a red card I should say that I knew the current Duke of Abercorn Father. Well he knew me as I was a boy {a lovely man}. I was (with my next brother up) even driven there once for our own safety. I don’t know what the trouble was.

    As people the British Royal family are horse people and in that area everyone is relatively equal {or at lest don’t give a stuff}.

    I only say that due to the fact most Unionist probably have me down as a hard line Republican who hates the Royal family as people. 🙂

  • Reader

    tyrone_taggart: How many of those wrongly put in prison did she visit afterwards?
    I’m not sure heads of state or heads of government typically make a point of meeting internees; prisoners on bail; or released remand prisoners.
    Though some of the local ones may have been in that position themselves.

  • tyrone_taggart

    “typically make a point of meeting internees”

    When you say “internees” I take you mean in this case innocent people who had no convictions against them?

    So which head of state do you know who does not meet such people?

  • I know I’m gonna kick myself for getting involved in this nonsense again. But, tyrone_taggart, maybe you don’t understand the rules of engagement. It’s up to you to name all the Heads of State who do visit people who have not yet been tried.

  • Reader

    tyrone_taggart: When you say “internees” I take you mean in this case innocent people who had no convictions against them?
    That’s why I also mentioned remand prisoners and prisoners on bail. Same deal. Innocent until proven guilty.
    tyrone_taggart: So which head of state do you know who does not meet such people?
    I think most Irish presidents ignored republicans interned in the Free State and the Republic, didn’t they? And I don’t think Roosevelt ever visited interned Japanese-Americans during WW2 either.

  • tyrone_taggart

    “Innocent until proven guilty.”

    They was arrested and “mistreated” illegally because “Parliament ” had never made the actions of “Demetrius” legal.

    Roosevelt did not allow the use of “disorientation” or “sensory deprivation” or the good old traditional baton-wielding soldiers.

    Lets be honest everyone and all organisations make mistakes. The British government did so at this point The army knew that they had made a lot of mistakes and Head of state did nothing about the welfare of her subjects who had been so badly mistreated.

    If the meeting between the British Queen and Martin Mc Guinness is symbolic. It is because Martin Mc Guinness is the product of a malfunctioning region who’s head of state must take some of responsibility for.

  • tyrone_taggart


    Michael D Higgins:

    Following his visit to Wheatfield, the President released a statement saying he would make it “a priority” to visit

    “the most excluded in our society, including those in institutional care.”

    He added: “I am of course conscious and very sensitive to the fact that many people in our prisons have committed violent crimes and caused grave hurt and distress for many people and I would not wish my support of rehabilitation to be in any way seen to be minimising the gravity of the crimes that have been committed.”

  • BluesJazz

    Muttley. sorry Marty, getting his good service medal.

  • BluesJazz

    Marty/Muttley : here

  • Just spotted this on a Facebook friend’s page; it is attributed to an unnamed sometime volunteer:

    But Martin McGuinness is meeting the British Queen but not in her capacity as Head of State. He is meeting her in the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, in her capacity as the co-patron of an all Ireland charity – Co-operation Ireland. She is attending that on an equal basis to the President of Ireland who is the other co-patron. There is no question of the British Queen or President Higgins attending this function as head of state. The protocol is very clear on this and there is no constitutional implications of the meeting in that context.

  • So SF misses out on being with rest of ‘Ireland’ in welcoming Queen in 2011 and ends up luv’ing it up at the Lyric with the Queen on her Jubilee Tour of the United Kingdom. So much for the Shinners finger on the pulse.

  • Perhaps the Facebook contributor should have read the President’s itinerary:

    Wednesday 27 June, 2012

    8:30 a.m. (Dublin) Convention Centre, Spencer Dock
    President formally opens the International Conference on Emergency Medicine 2012

    11:00 a.m. Belfast
    President attends Co-operation Ireland event marking transformational strength of arts and culture in Northern Ireland and throughout Ireland

    2:30 p.m. (Dublin) Phoenix Park
    President visits St. Mary’s Hospital

    5:00 p.m. Áras an Uachtaráin
    President hosts a reception for delegates at the 6th European Gay Police Association Conference

  • sonofstrongbow

    Perhaps the Presidential limo on the road north performs the same function, although somewhat in reverse, as Superman’s ‘phone box? He enters as a President and emerges as a mere charity patron?

  • galloglaigh

    I can’t recall any evidence of Irish Presidents standing on the border driving back the Republican murder gangs as they travelled north

    The very fact that successive Irish governments interned tens of thousands of anti-state republicans throughout the 20th Century, seems to have been missed in your reading of Irish history. Fair enough the Irish government at times were no Angels, but here’s some more whataboutery: The British government were intent on conflict, even if that meant sectarian conflict. They were happy enough to use agents to steer the direction of anti/pro-state forces on both sides of the border. They were directing both loyalist and republican volunteers, while their own security forces were safe in the knowledge that they wouldn’t face prosecution.

    The Irish government were trying to prevent conflict within their own jurisdiction. The British government were feeding it!

  • I see the Lyric has rejigged it’s autumn season:

    Noises Off

    The Odd Couple

    Much Ado About Nothing