Controversy, controversy, controversy.
Or at least what the “media” in all its wisdom deems to be controversial. And yet again Britain’s newspapers and journalists look at Ireland down the wrong end of the telescope (though some of our local folk are not all that much better) .
Martin McGuinness is not meeting the British head of state. The British head of state is meeting Martin McGuinness. There is a difference and a crucial one at that.
Last year Britain’s Queen Elizabeth visited the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin, lay a wreath and bowed her head to our Fenian dead. Dead Fenians. Dead Republicans. Dead ‘RA men and women.
It was an acknowledgement, an acceptance and a recognition of legitimacy. The British nation symbolically acknowledged and accepted Ireland’s independence. Furthermore it recognised the legitimacy of the struggle for independence and all that was done in its name. The United Irishmen, the Young Irelanders, the Irish Republican Brotherhood and Fenian Brotherhood, Clann na nGael, the Irish Republican Army. Each and every one is remembered in that hollowed place.
And the British state in the figure of its constitutional head came, bowed and accepted that we were right – and they were wrong.
So, over a year later, another acceptance. But this time of a more recent struggle. For what is the British head of state meeting a former Volunteer of the Irish Republican Army, the IRA’s former Chief of Staff, but a further acceptance of the legitimacy of the latest armed struggle?
The Long War was a just one. Perhaps even a necessary one for the neighbouring nations of Ireland and Britain to have come so far. For politics and peaceful protest would never have torn down the Northern apartheid state, the last remnants of the British colony in Ireland shrunk to its tattered Northern Pale. And the British tacitly acknowledge this.
So let Progressive Republicans and Nationalists take heart rather than dismay. The glass is half full not half empty, as some ever-pessimistic Irish see it.
The British are stooping down low.
Our day has come.
And in the years ahead there will be many more to follow.