Martin McGuinness has stated categorically that he remains committed to the cause of a united Ireland – despite his decision to have dinner with the Queen of England.
The Sinn Fein deputy leader has also admitted that his acceptance of an invitation to Windsor Castle from the Queen presents ‘symbolic challenges’ for Irish republicans.
The former IRA man will attend a number of events to mark the historic state visit by Irish President Michael D Higgins to Britain.
McGuinness has admitted that his decision to accepts the Queen’s invitation to a banquet in honor of President Higgins is ‘significant and involves political and symbolic challenges for Irish republicans.’
He added that his attendance at Windsor Castle this week will mark ‘another significant step’ in a process of transition, according to a report in the Irish Times.
But the paper reports that McGuinness also reiterated that a united Ireland continues to be the ‘primary objective’ of his political life.
He said, “I will attend the events as a representative of all of the people of the North, and in the context of conflict resolution and of building reconciliation among the people of Ireland, and between the people of Ireland and the people of Britain.”
Having boycotted the Queen’s visit to the Republic three years ago, McGuinness did meet the Monarch during a visit to Ulster a year later.
He acknowledges that his attendance at Windsor Castle this week is significant.
McGuinness added, “My presence alongside First Minister Peter Robinson brings an all-island dimension to this historic event which, it is worth noting, has taken all of 93 years to happen.
“As the record of the peace process demonstrates, Irish republicans have always been prepared to take decisions and risks for peace and reconciliation.
“I am an Irish republican. A united Ireland has been, and continues to be, the primary objective of my political life.
“I want to see an end to partition and unity of the Irish people through a genuine process of reconciliation based on equality and tolerance.
“I want an Ireland in which one can be British or Irish and live in harmony and mutual respect with their neighbors. There is now a peaceful and democratic way to achieve this.”
Like Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, McGuinness said there had been ‘huge and positive political changes in recent years’.
He said, “There is now a clear process of transition ongoing within the island of Ireland and between Ireland, including the North, and Britain.
“I firmly believe that my attendance marks another significant step. It is not an end to the process of building a new relationship based upon equality but is important part of that journey.”