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That handshake was a publicity coup for Sinn Fein – why were the opposition missing in action?

Why did the State foot the bill for Sinn Fein’s biggest publicity stroke as Gerry Adams shook the hand of Prince Charles, while the Taoiseach and opposition leaders were nowhere to be seen, asks Paul Allen.

Paul Allen

IT MUST HAVE been sickening for them to watch. So sickening in fact that it is unlikely Enda Kenny, Micheál Martin or Joan Burton had a good night’s sleep as they remained haunted from the memory of their worst nightmare which begun to unfold yesterday afternoon.

Sinn Fein, however, will have collectively woken up with a smile on their face after what could only be described as their fantasy dream came through yesterday in Galway.

For those who wonder why the republican movement would be so enamoured with meeting a royal the one word to grasp is — legitimacy. With Sinn Fein riding high in the polls and an election due next year the only chink in the party’s armour is its past. But if Prince Charles, whose great-uncle Lord Mountbatten was murdered by the IRA, can forgive the Republican movement and Gerry Adams, then surely everyone can. Right? This is why Mr Adams was smiling from ear-to-ear as he stood waiting for that historic handshake to take place.

Of course, there were protesters and rabble rousers demonstrating their anger outside at what they perceived to be a sell out by Adams and Co. Especially given the well orchestrated “rumour” reported in the media that the Sinn Fein president asked to meet the Prince of Wales during this historic trip.

But the Republican movement in Ireland has always been savvy and aware of the end game. They have always been pragmatic and if that means shaking hands with the Queen or Prince Charles, so be it. Their ultimate focus is now on becoming the ruling party in Ireland and taking home the first prize — the office on An Taoiseach.

Why were Enda, Micheál and Joan missing in action?

The question is however, why yesterday did Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour roll over and play dead? They were no where to be seen while the party that is the biggest threat to their electoral chances grabbed centre stage and the Prince’s hand, and shook them both for what they were worth.

With the State coughing up a huge amount of money for the security requirements surrounding the meeting of a leading royal and leading republican, with over 500 Gardai deployed, it is strange as to why Enda, Micheál and Joan were missing in action. It is as if they succumbed to the fact that the State and people of Ireland were going to foot the bill for Sinn Fein’s biggest publicity coup (in terms of national politics) to date.

While the handshake has to be seen a massive historic moment, it should have been a moment that was shared by all. The mainstream political parties over the years and the people of Ireland have invested a lot in terms of the peace process and building better relations with Britain. So it is astonishing they would now allow Sinn Fein to take ownership of this. Everything was so stage-managed and yet key political figures were sidelined and left looking on as Gerry Adams stole the show.

The impact of this handshake will only truly become apparent come January next year when all parties will be in election mode. First, Martin McGuinness met the Queen and now Gerry Adams has kissed and made up with Prince Charles. While their opponents will try to drag them back to the past, Sinn Fein will use these two outstanding and historic photo opportunities to show the party is all about the future. And after such a coup, it would be unwise to bet against Sinn Fein pulling something similar off come election day next year.

Paul Allen is managing director of Paul Allen and Associates PR. Follow his blog here.

Gerry Adams and Prince Charles just shared a historic handshake

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Paul Allen

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