SINN FÉIN PRESIDENT Gerry Adams has acknowledged that the planned meeting between the Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Queen Elizabeth II will cause difficulties for republicans.
At a press conference announcing the decision of the Sinn Féin Ard Comhairle to effectively give McGuinness the green light to meet the English monarch next Wednesday at a luncheon in Belfast, Adams said that the decision was part of a process of “reconciliation”.
He acknowledged that the decision will “cause difficulty for Republicans and nationalists who have suffered at the hands of British forces in Ireland over many decades” but added that “this is a significant initiative involving major political and symbolic challenges for Irish republicans”.
“As the record of the peace process demonstrates Irish republicans have frequently been prepared to take bold and historic initiatives and risks for peace to break stalemates and find agreements,” he told the media.
The meeting at the Co-Operation Ireland event in the Northern Ireland capital next week will, according to Press Association’s Deric Henderson, be strictly private with no cameras allowed.
It marks the first time that a senior leader of the republican movement and a former member of the IRA has met with a reigning monarch and will by a symbolic first in the peace process set up by the Good Friday Agreement 14 years ago.
Adams said that the decision today reflected his party’s commitment to the peace process and to unite Ireland saying that it was Sinn Féin’s “genuine desire to embrace our unionist neighbours”.
“It reflects the equality and parity of esteem arrangements which are now in place,” he said adding that it was clear that there were “legacy issues” that had to be dealt with by the party.
He added: “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.”