Former Provisional IRA leader Martin McGuinness has shaken hands with Queen Elizabeth II. Yes really.
After a lifetime of fighting for “Brits out”, McGuinness welcomed the head of the British State at a Diamond Jubilee do in Belfast on 27 June.
McGuinness’s justification for the meeting speaks volumes about the problems of Northern Ireland’s communal carve-up of a political system.
Shaking hands with the Queen is, said McGuinness, “about me representing my party, wishing to show the unionist people in the north that we are prepared to respect what they believe in, albeit that we are still Irish republicans.” In other words, let the Queen speak for the unionists and Sinn Féin will continue to represent the nationalist community.
Throughout the Troubles, Sinn Féin protested that its ideology was about universal rights such as national self-determination and not, as Workers’ Liberty has said, a Catholic-chauvinist sectarian ideology.
Sinn Féin’s post-conflict willingness to content itself with managing the antagonisms between what are presumed to be two immutable and separate (but now equal?) communal blocs suggests there was much truth to our analysis.
But the monarchy is still an affront to democracy and equality, no matter what role it is said to be playing in the so-called “peace process”.