Martin McGuinness, Her Maj and Crumlin Road jail


I was looking at that photograph the other day of Queen Elizabeth walking through Crumlin Road jail with  Peter Robinson on one side, Martin McGuinness on the other, and was that Theresa Villiers peeping smiling from behind? I can see why Robinson and Villiers were there: she’s their monarch and head of state,  they go all wobbly at the knees when a royal presence enters the room (or in this case the jail). But what about McGuinness? Isn’t he a republican?

Well, there are a variety of possible answers, some more convincing than others. Maybe he finds her sexually attractive? Nah, I can’t buy that one. Her Majesty, as the Beatles put it, is a pretty nice girl but I think it’d be unfair to accuse her of being  a sexual magnet. Maybe it’s because Martin likes getting his photograph taken? Doubt that. McGuinness has had his photograph taken thousands, maybe tens of thousands of times, often with people a great deal more important than her maj.  Then maybe he’s doing it because he really wants to annoy the true-blue die-hard republicans, who see him as having sold out and that this pic represents him metaphorically grovelling at his new boss’s feet? Well if that was his intention I’m sure he’s succeeded. There’s no doubt there were republicans who saw this and swore until the air was blue about traitors and betrayal and cementing partition. But I don’t think that’s what Martin set out to do.

The clue as to why he did it is in the remark he made to journalists, that Her Maj was “miles ahead” of other people – to wit, unionists – in terms of reconciliation. He’s right there.  She’s been shown in public several times shaking McGuinness’s hand. When did you last see a photograph of a unionist – let’s talk about the biggest unionist party, the DUP – when did you see a pic of Gregory Campbell or Ian Paisley Jr or even little Jeffrey shaking hands or even smiling at Martin McGuinness? On the contrary – they are always at pains, in the presence of any Sinn Féin people, to look as sulky and unfriendly as possible. And as for fleshy hand-contact? Forget it.

Yet these unionists say they are bound to the Union with Britain through ties of loyalty to the monarchy. To them the monarchy is central. Their  allegiance is to the crown, not to some here-today-gone-tomorrow British government. Think about it. Here’s the guy they can’t bear to approach nearer than ten feet without breaking out in hives, and he’s clearly on good terms with the key element of their loyalty. He’s on better terms with her than they are. And that remark about her out-pacing them on reconciliation – no denying it. Fact is, they’re beginning to look a little bit funny, keeping the Deputy First Minister at arm’s length while their monarch, despite all the hurt of the past, has clearly put that behind her, at least on personal terms. Did I say ‘funny’? Make that stupid. Self-contradictory.

There’s also another aspect to the meeting – well the same one, basically – south of the border. Martin had hardly stepped into the Crum than Enda Kenny was releasing statements that Gerry Adams or was it the IRA should have been passing information to the British police about who did the Guildford bombing way back in the 1970s. No need for a soothsayer to see why Enda’s piped up. He wants to keep the Sinn Féin-IRA pot boiling as briskly as possible, because it’s the only way he can think of in which Sinn Féin’s electoral advance in the south might be slowed down. It’s a slim chance, granted, but he’s prepared to try it. But here again, there’s a contradiction. QE2 has made it plain she’s not going to let the past hobble her relationship with the Shinners; why then would Enda and Fine Gael?

Some people said that when Martin McGuinness ran for the Irish presidency, it was to draw the poison of the media and other opponents south of the border, thus opening the way for Sinn Féin candidates to be dealt with in the same terms as any other party. If he was and we judge by results, he’s been very successful. Visiting Crumlin Road jail with Queen Elizabeth cuts the ground from under Enda also. The visit alongside McGuinness said in so many words: “Time to press on, make a better tomorrow”. McGuinness was right – Her Maj is streets ahead of a lot of other people, both north and south of the border. And boy, do they feel bewildered.

15 Responses to Martin McGuinness, Her Maj and Crumlin Road jail

  1. Jim Lynch June 26, 2014 at 10:08 am #

    Maybe unionists and in particular the DUP should take heed of that character Polonius from Willie Shakespeare’s Hamlet;
    “To thine ownself be true.”

    But if I recall correctley Shakespeare was a Catholic and even in his day Catholics were considered “persona non grata.” In other words, they were ostracized.

    I believe he tried to hide the fact he was a Catholic and kept a low profile as far as religion was conserned. So the DUP would never take a page out of any of Willie’s writings.
    No pun intended.

  2. neill June 26, 2014 at 10:52 am #

    Good to see Northern Ireland becoming more settled.

  3. paddykool June 26, 2014 at 10:53 am #

    Jude: That’s nailing it alright …If a picture is worth a thousand words and all that.It’s really all about money not buying a bit of class or in this case , the innate ability to have a little grace. Unionism is so far behind the curve on this one that they’ve lost the plot completely .
    Her Maj always struck me as a reasonable human being trapped by birthright and her own idea of honour into an ongoing and relentless circus of public pleasuring .Stand up anyone who’d want that kind of life .Only some poor numbnut from the Big Brother household would want that kind of daily scrutiny. You wouldn’t wish that hassle on an there you have it .The woman may not be a true red republican but you can imagine her having a lifetime’s perspective that she’s learned a few lessons from .She was a young , fine looking lassie during the wartime.She got out on the streets then .she grew up and lived through eigty -odd years through revolutionary times of blood and mayhem throughout the land and the world.She appears to have a well-developed sense of humour , which is the ultimate sign of wit. I wouldn’t want her shoes but….
    Marty has shown more suppleness in his ideas than are inherent in any unionist thinking, I’ve seen .He definitely has statesman -like qualities in his rhetoric…again learned over forty years of turmoil. He has n’t dismissed unionism’s foolish brattishness or its hypochondria. He has attempted rapprochement at every turn. He has the wit to know that the heat has to be taken out before a rolling debate on the future can be properly attempted .The Long Game now is to unite the people. …Then you can talk about uniting the country…the world. He’s already there in his mind. Unionism is so far behind that they are afraid to think themselves out of their tight corner ……That embracing that hand of friendship seems to be a blow across their splintering bows If we shake Marty’s hand …we’re fucked!…It’ll be all over!There’ll be nothing left to bitch about but brute reality.
    Fact .Marty and Her Maj know they are on opposite sides of the debating table, but each is so sure of their own position that they can respect each other’s view without being in any way threatened. Just like real grown-ups sharing a nice cup of tea.
    How far away is Her Maj from unionism…..oh…about 400 hundred odd years I’d say at a rough guess….

  4. paul June 26, 2014 at 11:14 am #

    Does the esteemed FM every smile? (or anyone in the DUP) . Kenny continues to show just how hollow he is, rather than addressing social issues affecting his country, he continues to throw brickbats at SF. Kenny didn’t give two shites about gerry Conlon when he was imprisioned, now because his death has made him a cause celebre, Kenny and all the other southern pols are writhing in indignation. TOO late Enda, sorry. ( I bet Micheal Noonan still feels Mr Conlon was guilty). A govt falsely imprisons a large number of people for many years. Prosecutoes conspire to ensure that a guilty verdict is reached despite the fact that they are in possession of evidence that would exonerate these same people. Yet Kenny et al spew blame on the IRA? Priceless. You really can’t make this stuff up.

    As to the queen, history has shown time and again that the British regard the Irish as an inferior race fit for their subjugation. It will take a lot more than a few words in the Garden of Remembrance and a few handshakes to convince me otherwise.

  5. RJC June 26, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    There’s that point that gets acknowledged from time to time that large numbers of DUP Assembly members refuse to even acknowledge Martin McGuinness in Stormont.

    If they pass him in the corridor, do they nod and say hello? No.

    If he holds a door open for them, do they smile and say ‘thanks’? No.

    If they find themselves at adjacent sinks washing their hands in the bathrooms do they respond when he says ‘Grand weather today, isn’t it?’ No.

    Ignorant doesn’t even come close.

    Unionism is so far behind the curve, it’s not even aware that there is a curve to begin with.

  6. paul June 26, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

    All the ‘defenders of democracy’ in the DUP and Unionism in general will continue to falter until they are passed by.( in many cases this has already occurred) Instead of seeking to help all constituents, including their own, they are entrenched in the politics of “no no no”. That time has passed and like it or not a new day has dawned. Instead of hand wringing and hypocritical accusations aimed at SF and republicans in general, they would be better served by practicing some basic civility towards their fellow members in govt. Courtesy goes along way to ending strife., especially when your own record is not blemish free.

    Like him or not M McG has acted much more maturely and statesmanlike than any of his DUP counterparts. He has extended his hand in reconciliation many times to the DUP only to be rebuffed. Please spare me the notion that he was in the IRA and that shaking his hand is unpalatable for DUP ‘Democrats” . “Let he who is without blame cast the first stone”

  7. michael c June 26, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

    I think Martin has now gone far enough in this regard and it’s maybe time to ease back on this meeting Royality lark.The point has been made with regards a gesture to unionists and most SF people I know would prefer a more traditional approach to these matters.

    • paddykool June 26, 2014 at 6:43 pm #

      So there’s no chance of Marty and Her Maj having a fling then, Michael?

      • giordanobruno June 26, 2014 at 8:13 pm #

        People were starting to talk.
        But I agree with paul above that McGuinness has been statesmanlike in this. He represents all the people and meeting the Queen does not make him any less of a republican. Unionists could learn from him.
        It may help in bringing some SF supporters to a less bitter view of her, as it seems to have done with Jude.

        • Jude Collins June 26, 2014 at 9:09 pm #

          Gio – just so you know. I was never ‘bitter’ about QE2. I think monarchy is a patent absurdity and a daft way to find a head of state. But the British people figure it’s a good one so good luck to them. I’m too old to be bitter, Or maybe just too good-natured. Right, that’s it. I’m too good-natured to be bitter. Even with you.

    • paul June 27, 2014 at 12:13 am #

      PaddyK my thoughts exactly

  8. RJC June 26, 2014 at 8:58 pm #

    On a (slightly) separate note, The Guardian has turned its attentions to The Ballymurphy Massacre

  9. Wolfe tone June 26, 2014 at 9:20 pm #

    While Enda kenny is at it perhaps he should be making pleas for her maj to pass on any information she may have about her friend jimmy savile. Or are we not allowed to talk about that in this new era we find ourselves in?

  10. Gerry MacLochlainn June 27, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

    In your article you refer to Enda claiming that Republicans should have given the Brits the details f who carried out the Guildford and Woolwich bombings. That demonstrates just how much notice Enda actually paid to the fate of the Guildford 4.
    The fact is the IRA did give information on who carried out the attacks. The volunteers involved actually gave evidence in court proving that they had carried out the attacks and proved that the Guildford 4 had not carried out the bombings.
    the response was the British appeal court ruled that the IRA members had carried out the bombings but the Guildford had travelled along with them and somehow or other there were 8 bombers now rather than the 4 they had always insisted on carrying them out.
    The problem for Enda is that whilst many people now claim to have championed the innocent people in English gaols – they ignored their families appeals for support and they ignored the death of Giuseppe Conlon.
    As a member of the Guildford Campaign – I know how many people helped us and I know that it was the families of the prisoners, the ordinary Irish Community in Britain and a number of decent British activists like John McDonnell, Gareth Peirce, Jeremy Corbyn etc who freed the Guild Four and the Birmingham 6.

  11. Virginia June 29, 2014 at 3:28 am #

    The Queen bypasses a chance to sit on the Iron Throne and you give it no mention? Very sad, as GOT is what now defines the fairest province.