Sinn Féin MP Martin McGuinness has no problems unveiling a photograph of his handshake with the Queen of England to the world.
The Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister believes his meeting with the British Monarch will ‘propel the peace process forward to a new unprecedented level’.
Speaking at the Northern Assembly building at Stormont ahead of the Queen’s jubilee visit to Ulster, McGuinness expressed a wish for the photograph to be released to the press.
His comments are a direct contradiction of claims from senior sources, reported in the Irish media, that the historic meeting would be held behind closed doors.
The Irish Times reports that McGuinness is happy for his handshake to be recorded for the public record.
He told the paper: “My hope is that there will be a photograph, absolutely, I don’t have any difficulty with that at all.
“Once I decide to do something I don’t hide behind doors, I don’t seek secrecy for anything I do. I and the people I represent have the confidence to step out front and be upfront about our actions and how we believe those actions can contribute to making the place we live in a far, far better place than it is at the moment.
“This is me stepping up to the plate, this is me moving forward to be involved in an event which I hope sends a very clear signal to people about the importance of reconciliation, and the importance of us working together to ensure that the disasters of the past are not visited on the children of the future.”
McGuinness also told the Irish Times that he was well aware that the Queen’s husband’s uncle Lord Mountbatten was murdered by the IRA in 1979.
The paper reports that he added that he had no plans to make reference to that IRA attack during his conversation with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
McGuiness continued: “I represent people who have been terribly hurt by British state violence over many years.
“I also recognise I am going to meet someone who has also been hurt as a result of the conflict, and someone who is very conscious that in many homes in Britain there are parents, wives, children, brothers and sisters of British soldiers who were sent here who lost their lives in the conflict.”
The Sinn Féin deputy leader also revealed that he has yet to decide how he will address Queen Elizabeth but made clear it was unlikely to be ‘Your majesty’.
He said: “These are not the sort of terms I use when I speak to people. Grandiose titles do not sit easily with me.”
Significantly, McGuinness said: “I hope the meeting will symbolically demonstrate to unionists that they were valued and respected and give them a glimpse of what a reunited Ireland would look like.”
Responding to comments from DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, who characterised his decision to meet Queen Elizabeth as recognising her as head of state, McGuinness rejected the suggestion.
He said: “Jeffrey, fond and all of him as I am, does not speak for me. I am not a royalist. I am not a monarchist, I am an Irish republican. The person I recognise as the head of state is President Higgins.”