Queen Elizabeth II and Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness shake hands in 2012.
Photo by: Getty Images
Former IRA leader Martin McGuinness will sit down for dinner with the Queen of England in Windsor Castle next Tuesday.
The Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister has accepted an invitation to a state banquet during Irish President Michael D Higgins’ visit to Britain.
McGuinness had stalled on the invitation from the Queen having refused to meet her during her 2011 visit to the Republic.
He did meet and shake hands with the English monarch a year later in Ulster and will now attend a series of events around the historical visit by President Higgins to the UK next week.
The invitation was finally accepted after a meeting of the Sinn Fein leadership in Dundalk on Saturday.
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny and the North’s First Minister Peter Robinson will join McGuinness at the Windsor Castle banquet.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams stated that he had previously welcomed the state visit ‘in the context of building new relationships within Ireland and between these islands’.
He did warn that the decision to accept the invitation from the Queen may cause difficulties for some republicans.
Adams said: “The visit must be viewed against the backdrop of huge political changes that have taken place in recent years - changes in which Irish republicans have played a leadership role.”
Going on to re-confirm Sinn Fein;s wuest for a United Ireland, Adams acknowledged the need to move on for the sake of the peace process.
He said: “We want a united Ireland which accommodates those who define themselves as British. Within this context I can confirm that Martin McGuinness will accept the invitation to attend.
“The decision to attend is in keeping with the transition that is ongoing between Ireland and Britain.
“There is now a peaceful and democratic way to end the Union and Partition.
This is a work in progress and Sinn Féin accepts that there is an onus on us to persuade our unionist neighbours that their interests are best served in a new, agreed Ireland.”
Addressing those opposed to the McGuinness visit to Windsor Castle, Adams added: “I would appeal to them to view this positively in the context of republican and democratic objectives and the interests of unity and peace on this island.
“The real significance and value of President Higgins’s visit will only be realised if peace and the political processes are built upon by both Governments. That means implementing all outstanding elements of the Good Friday and other Agreements.”