Martin McGuinness may have annoyed a few people this week. And made a few others nervous. And mildly pleased a few more. Odd, how the same action can provoke such a range of reactions, isn’t it?
Although McGuinness hasn’t so much acted as hinted that he might one day act. At some future date he may walk through a door marked “Meet the queen”; for now he’s just nudged the door open a little bit. The Deputy First Minister has said that the visit of QE2 to the south and her demeanour at the Garden of Remembrance and her use of Irish have given him food for thought about meeting her. Or not.
The people likely to be annoyed are those republicans who believe McGuinness and Sinn Féin have sold out and are administering British rule in the north: they’ll see this is just one more step on the road of servitude. The people nervous are those republicans who have stuck with McGuinness and Sinn Féin through all the astonishing changes of the last decade or two, and who are maybe wobbling just a bit at this latest potential move. The people mildly pleased are the unionists. They’ll see this as confirmation that the man central to the IRA campaign has re-committed himself to conventional within-the-union politics.
It might be instructive for all three groups to turn their eyes to another man in the public eye at present – Alex Salmond. You’ll notice that while the leader of the Scottish National Party is happy to put two questions on the Scottish referendum, one of them will not be should Queen Elizabeth remain head of state for Scotland: “The Queen will be Elizabeth of Scotland in the same way as she is Queen today in Canada, Australia and a host of other Commonwealth nations”.
Now it may be that Salmond has a genuine respect for the queen and believes his fellow-countrymen would be the poorer without her as their head of state. But my guess is that he knows talking up the un-threatened relationship with QE2 will calm more than a few nervous Scots. When Alex Salmond reassures his fellow-countrymen that while there may not always be an England, there’ll always be a monarch, you may be sure he’s counting on several thousand votes being added to the independence box.
Angry Irish republicans, of course, will argue that while Salmond may be using the queen to build a bridge out of the union, McGuinness is using the same queen as a bridge that takes us deeper into the union. Nervous republicans will grit their teeth and hope that the Meet-the-queen bridge isn’t one that leads to the Commonwealth. Unionists will be pleased by the extent to which these latest words appear to ‘normalise relations’ between Northern Ireland and Britain – within the union.
Actually, Martin McGuinness’s door-opener should surprise none of us. It’s totally in line with what has been at the top of Sinn Féin policy for the last fifteen years approximately: to encourage unionists to decommission their suspicion, let go of their siege mentality and consider how much they have in common with the rest of us. Not an easy task and God knows with the likes of Edwin Poots it may take a long time, but then republicans are nothing if not patient. And if some day the man who may by then be the First Minister of Northern Ireland decides to walk through the “Meet the queen” door, so what? When Alex Salmond meets her and reaffirms her as head of state, it adds if anything a spring to his step as he swings away and takes another purposeful stride towards a door marked “Exit”. You may be sure McGuinness is having similar thoughts.
Personally, though, if Ma’am asks to meet me, I’m going to have to turn her down. No, Ma’am, I’ll say, not tonight. Or any other day or night. In fact, it’s my conviction that every freedom-loving country should be working tirelessly for regime change on the big island next door. An unelected head of state, a family that has amassed vast wealth and lives in eye-crossing luxury, the death in mysterious circumstances of a hostile daughter- in-law, plus Prince Charles’s views on architecture.: if you ask me, NATO tanks should have been sent in years ago.
I enjoy this debate re mcg deciding whether to meet the queen or not….let's turn the debate round a little and what if the queen said frig that not a chance I'm meeting that Fenian who murdered my cousin…I would love to see the outcry in nationalist circles!!
Oh I can dream
Oh yeah Jude nice to see you have joined the ranks of al fayed in your Diana conspiracy ideas… Really!
It appears,Jude,that you are becoming more republican than the republicans themselves.On the other hand,it seems that Sinn Fein are adopting the Groucho Marx dictum “These are my principles.If you dont like them,I've got other ones”
We might do well to take a leaf from Alex's book. Here's a thought – have a referendum in Ireland on unity, but as a condition, a united Ireland includes rejoining the Commonwealth – nationalists get what they want, and unionists have a tangible link with their British heritage – either I've just found the perfect solution or I'm damned by both sides. I'm a nationalist by the way, and I would vote yes!
I see Reg Empey has got his underwear in a twist with this Scottish referendum. He's saying that it has the potential to encourage republicans to return to armed struggle. Now maybe I've missed something here but how could a totally peaceful democratic referendum on Scottish Independence ever encourage anyone to try to do the same thing in an undemocratic violent way here in the North? Surely wouldn’t it show those with a violent tendency that it would be possible to achieve Irish unity in a similar fashion?
Re anon 11.32…not a bad idea and one which could be viewed as progress as a sop to unionism that some might accept.
The place where it all falls down though is in the belief that the ROI would want a million and a half bitter little prods and Fenians…we have over the years through bombings shootings and general madness not an attractive prospect to anyone let alone a country struggling under the weight of colossal debt.
The irony is that the PIRA campaign might have changed things up here but they also changed things down south as well… They see us as separate up here and to be frank a little nuts,as much as it's an aspiration the reality is they would shudder at the realpoltick of actually having us and becoming “a nation once again”
So until you have several generations who have forgot about the troubles,until pin prick attacks stop by dissidents (which actually serve to just remind the ROI population that we are still nuts up here)and until economically that the ROI can support us without affecting mrs daly's standard of life in kerry or wherever it remains a pipedream
It's fun chatting about it though but you all know this little slice of Ireland will be British for a long time to come
Anon 12.32. I agree that there would be a sizeable proportion in the south who would be against unity (and your reasoning is spot on) but I don't think that this reflective of the majority. I would bet that, given an all Ireland referendum on unity, the majority on this island would vote yes. But, to ensure that Protestants are accommodated, change would be needed – a new flag, anthem a constitution for a start. That's where it might fall down – ironically the past 10 years would probably result in Northerners more inclined to compromise on this – whereas southerners would be harder to convince.
i'd vote no. why should any conditions be put on how irish people vote. if irish people want to join the commonwealth as a united ireland then have a separate vote on that but making it a condition, no the people are sovereign not the people who write the proposal and especially not the people who grant it. wheres our self respect.
jude you ask “And if some day the man who may by then be the First Minister of Northern Ireland decides to walk through the “Meet the queen” door, so what?”
i think that is the provo logic to every single question, so what and from a post modern perspective there's something to it but if with post modernism everything means nothing then everything means nothing then what is the tangible position of SF?
now SF can take that position all they want and be content with it but we live in a world of symbols, our news is constructed in a narrative of gesture politics. where SF where once definitively counter hegemonic the value and the gesture in this is spun as SF fitting in to the dominant hegemony as with every other gesture.
i can see whats in this for the state. i disagree there is anything in it for SF. the english queen is a symbol. she didn't vist the south as betty windsor. i was in dublin when she visited. the place was like a powder keg. it saen the biggest security operation in that city in decades. the camera's didn't show it but it was there, just becuase it's not part of the dominant narrative dosn't mean it's not part of the folk narrative. SF will never win the dominant naritive with out accepting everything there about and even then 'the provos' are a usful black dog in the propaganda's 5 points sense but they could loose some of the folk narrative. probably not for this gesture on its own but it contributes to its own gestalt.
as SF is the dominant nationalist party i am worried when i see this. to compare it to scotland iam not sure stands up. irish nationalism has a much stonger anti imperialist culture than scotish nationalism.
No wobbling at all Jude – keeping the faith!