Sinn Féin is continuing to press home its advantage following the visit by Britain’s head of state to Ireland to attend a Co-Operate Ireland function (of which she and the President of Ireland are joint patrons), an event where she met the northern deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness. From a Reuters’ report:
“Former IRA leader Martin McGuinness on Thursday accused Britain of making “very wrong” decisions, saying it was failing to engage with Northern Ireland or take responsibility for the British army’s role in a conflict that killed thousands.
Speaking a day after his historic handshake with Queen Elizabeth, McGuinness – now the deputy first minister of Northern Ireland – complained he had met U.S. President Barack Obama more times in his current role than he had met British Prime Minister David Cameron.
“This lack of engagement by David Cameron is a serious mistake,” he told an audience at Westminster in London near the Houses of Parliament, which the Irish Republican Army bombed in 1974.
Urging Britain to recognise what he said was its role as a combatant in the Northern Ireland conflict, he accused London of obstructing inquiries into the alleged killings of civilians by the British army and called for greater overall engagement.
“Unfortunately to date the British state has refused to even acknowledge its role as a combatant in the conflict,” said McGuinness. “That position is no longer tenable as we move forward. It is insulting to victims.”
His meeting with the queen on Wednesday came 14 years after the IRA ended its war against British rule in the province, which is part of the United Kingdom which also includes Britain.
McGuinness said he had met the queen, whose cousin was killed in a 1979 IRA attack, in the spirit of national reconciliation and mutual respect, but that rapprochement was being made more difficult by Britain’s “very wrong and unhelpful” decisions.
“We are emerging from a conflict that resulted in lives being lost and families being devastated. I genuinely regret every single life that was lost during that conflict,” McGuinness said.
“I am up for the big challenge of redefining that relationship in the wake of this week’s historic events. But in the same way as you cannot make peace on your own you cannot build reconciliation without participation,” he added.
McGuinness on Thursday restated his goal of a united Ireland and pushed for “new thinking” in Britain and Ireland, calling the current partition “a relic of the past – a symbol of political failure”.
“Is supporting partition really what a modern, forward-looking British government should be doing in the year 2012? I don’t think so,” he said.
“It is also a challenge for the Irish government. For too long successive Irish governments have paid lip service to Irish unity. They have tolerated the division of our country and people which has resulted in Ireland as a nation not reaching our full potential,” he added.”