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McGuinness: I know this decision involves challenges for Irish republicans

McGuinness has been questioned on his decision to attend a banquet with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle this week.

Image: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Updated 7.53pm

NORTHERN IRELAND’S DEPUTY First Minister Martin McGuinness has said he is conscious that his decision to attend a banquet with Queen Elizabeth II as part of a State visit present challenges for Irish republicans.

In a statement today, McGuinness said he will be doing this as a representative of all of the people of the North, and in the context of conflict resolution and of building reconciliation among the people of Ireland, and between the people of Ireland and the people of Britain.

The banquet is being held in Windsor Castle in honour of Irish President Michael D Higgins who will arrive in England tomorrow for a State visit. Yesterday it was confirmed that McGuinness had accepted an invitation to attend.

“I am conscious that this decision is significant and involves political and symbolic challenges for Irish republicans,” he said. “However, my presence alongside Peter Robinson brings an all-island dimension to this historic event which, it is worth noting, has taken all of 93 years to happen.”

“As the record of the Peace Process demonstrates Irish republicans have always been prepared to take decisions and risks for peace and reconciliation.

I am an Irish republican. A united Ireland has been, and continues to be, the primary objective of my political life. I want to see an end to Partition and unity of the Irish people through a genuine process of reconciliation based on equality and tolerance. I want an Ireland in which one can be British or Irish and live in harmony and mutual respect with their neighbours. There is now a peaceful and democratic way to achieve this.

The Sinn Féin MLA said he believed his attendance marks another significant step in the process.

Originally published 3.17pm

Related: Hello ma’am: Martin McGuinness accepts invitation to dine with the Queen>

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