Reaction to Martin McGuinness and Queen meeting

The Queen and Martin McGuinness
Image caption The Queen and Martin McGuinness will be among those attending a charity reception in Northern Ireland

The Queen's planned meeting with Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness in Northern Ireland next week has sparked a flurry of reaction from politicians and others.

Sinn Fein leaders have boycotted previous Royal visits to Ireland but Mr McGuinness is now set to break that trend.

Mr McGuinness and First Minister Peter Robinson have been invited to attend a Co-operation Ireland reception along with the Queen and the Irish President Michael D Higgins.

Here is some reaction to the impending meeting between Her Majesty and Northern Ireland's deputy first minister.

Peter Hain, former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

"Despite the history, the bitter history, which has involved Royals as well - of course I think of Earl Mountbatten's assassination by the IRA - I think despite that bitter history, what this really puts the seal on is that the past is the past.

"And republicans, aside from some tiny minority groups who have very little, if any support in the community... actually see their duty as to make this new settlement work, and that they are benefiting from it as well.

"It does show in shining terms how everybody is turning their backs on the past of horror and violence and moving towards peace between previously bitter enemies.

"Inevitably past victims of IRA atrocities will be upset. Many Republicans will see it as a betrayal.

"But what it shows is that both Martin McGuinness and Her Majesty are saying that the future is much more important than the past. If we get stuck in the past we will never make any progress."

Peter Sheridan, Co-operation Ireland's chief executive and former senior Northern Ireland police officer

"It is something that demonstrates to ordinary people out there that we have gotten to the stage where we can acknowledge each other with respect. It does not mean that we have to agree.

"This is part of the healing process, of how do we make sure for the next generation of young people that we are not still revisiting these issues. It is our responsibility to fix those issues and not leave them to the next generation."

Michael Gallagher, brother killed by the Provisional IRA and son died in Omagh bombing

"The vast majority of people in both communities know the future is working together and coming together and understanding and sharing our future together and not forgetting our past, but not letting our past dominate the future and that's exactly what this meeting's doing."

Lord Tebbit, former Conservative Party chairman and Brighton bomb survivor

"I assume he's accepted the world as it is, and the sovereignty of Her Majesty over Northern Ireland. If so, that's good. It doesn't of course excuse any of the things that were done with his support.

"I hope it's another step towards public repentance, the apologies, and the seeking of ways to offer recompense for the violence which was exerted by Sinn Fein-IRA over many years both in Ireland and on the mainland of Britain.

"I don't know [if repentance is the motive] but I am very glad they now accepting the sovereignty of Her Majesty over Northern Ireland.

"It is in mutual interest of both the people of the Republic of Ireland and those of the United Kingdom that there should be civilised relations between us. And future generations may come to, essentially, if not forget, to forgive what was done by their predecessors.

"And of course the Queen has played an important role in that, as indeed has the president of the Republic."

Colonel Tim Collins, former Army officer

"I think it was inevitable. I am glad that Sinn Fein have seen sense to join the modern world. It would have reflected badly on them if had they not chosen to do it.

"It will be interesting to see the Queen, but I am sure that the Queen will conduct herself with a great deal of dignity. They murdered [her cousin, Lord Mountbatten], on many occasions they tried to murder her. There was a plan to murder her son and her daughter-in-law.

"So she's got a personal interest, I'm sure she'll be amused to see the faces of the people that have irrationally hated her so much, and she'll probably be wondering 'what was the big deal?'.

"[Those still carrying out violence] have never really needed that much justification to murder. These folks are living in the past, they're living in a world that does not exist any more. They're finding that difficult to cope with and their reaction is always to find more and better reasons to justify their campaign of murder."

Jeffrey Donaldson, Democratic Unionist MP

"We acknowledge the suffering of all those who have been victims of the terrorist violence during the Troubles.

"But we're also looking to the future in Northern Ireland, a shared future, and it's welcome that Martin McGuinness is welcoming Her Majesty the Queen as our head of state.

"It's a step in the right direction, and it's all about moving forward and recognising each other's identity, the traditions, and of course - for the Unionist community - the Queen is very much a part of our sense of Britishness, our sense of belonging to the United Kingdom."

Peter Taylor, journalist and documentary filmmaker

"When Martin McGuinness meets the Queen and when he shakes her hand, it will be a hugely symbolic moment, an historic moment.

"I have known Martin McGuinness and followed his career since 1972. But I never thought I would see the day when he became Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, and even less so, when he would meet the Queen and shake her by the hand.

"One of the reasons why Sinn Fein has decided this - they are party decisions - to go ahead and meet the Queen and shake her hand, is because he knows how it will play in the Republic. Her Majesty's visit to the Republic went a long way to changing attitudes in the north towards the Royal Family."

Lord Empey, Ulster Unionist Party chairman

"From the Queen's successful visit to the Irish Republic in May of last year, I think there was a certain inevitably about this because the public reaction in Dublin to Sinn Fein not meeting Her Majesty was that they were being churlish.

"Given the fact that unionist politicians have been meeting with and shaking hands with Irish presidents for a number of years now, I think there was a certain inevitably about it."

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