LONDON- Agence France-Presse
Martin McGuinness, the ex-IRA commander turned Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, will meet Queen Elizabeth II this week in a historic first for the peace process.
The republican Sinn Fein party said McGuinness had been invited to meet the monarch at an event in Belfast tomorrow, which Michael D. Higgins, the president of the Republic of Ireland, will also attend. Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said the party leadership had decided on June 22 that the meeting should go ahead, saying it was the “right thing to do at the right time and for the right reasons.”
Response to criticism
“I accept that this decision will cause genuine and understandable difficulties for some people, not least some of the victims of the British crown forces in Ireland,” he said. Buckingham Palace would only confirm that McGuinness had been invited.
It is the latest step in McGuinness’s journey from militant to peacemaker, which saw him take a leading role in both the sectarian violence that plagued Northern Ireland
for three decades and the peace process that followed.
Sinn Fein is the political wing of the now-defunct Irish Republican Army paramilitary group. It has always boycotted royal engagements in Northern Ireland
in the past.
Sinn Fein members have always refused to take up their seats in the British Parliament because it would mean swearing an oath of allegiance to the monarch.