Sinn Féin delegates have backed a controversial motion to ban any British royal or government member from attending the 1916 Rising commemorations, despite a plea that the move will embarrass the party’s leadership.
The decision to make it official policy for Sinn Féin to oppose Queen Elizabeth II and her relatives from being invited to any State events was made on the first day of party’s ard fheis in Derry last night.
As part of a series of motions on social services, taxation and a united Ireland, the Keating-Sands Waterford cumann said the “importance of the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising” means “no member of either the British royal family or British government” should be invited to any official State event.
Amid widespread backing of the policy, Derry delegate Gerry McCartney said the proposed policy should be rejected as it would be like telling Northern Ireland first minister Martin McGuinness “we’re not sure” about his moves to reconciliation.
Mr McCartney said “it wasn’t just Irish republicans who died, it was British soldiers who died” and that it will be impossible to commemorate the event without including all sides.
To lukewarm applause the local delegate specifically referenced Mr McGuinness’s 2012 “offer of friendship” handshake with the Queen and that passing the policy would effectively tell unionists and British people Sinn Féin’s hands were not “in his” at the time.
Also says if it is passed it will be like telling Martin McGuinness "we're not sure" about his handshake with the Queen #sfaf15— Fiachra Ó Cionnaith (@Ocionnaith) March 6, 2015
He said the message should be "when he shook hands with the Queen every one of our hands were in his". #sfaf15— Fiachra Ó Cionnaith (@Ocionnaith) March 6, 2015
However, despite the call to “put down” the motion and moves by MEP Matt Carthy to have the vote deferred, it was passed to widespread cheers last night with Limerick councillor Séighin Ó Ceallaigh saying the message must be that royals “are not welcome at any event”.
Bit of a row brewing on that one (shock, horror). Limerick cllr Séighin Ó Ceallaigh says royals are "not welcome at any event" #sfaf15— Fiachra Ó Cionnaith (@Ocionnaith) March 6, 2015
The public disagreement came on a night which also saw a motion calling on Sinn Féin to refuse to support any Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael-led government after the general election resoundingly supported.
Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said the party has “no interest in propping up” what he described as a right-wing government as “that is what Labour is for”.
The comment — which was mirrored by Sinn Féin councillor Eoin Ó Brion —came after Mr Doherty had earlier suggested to RTÉ radio the party may consider coalition with Fianna Fáil if Sinn Féin is the main party.
During the same interview, the Donegal TD appeared to leave space open for Gerry Adams not becoming taoiseach in such a scenario, but insisted Mr Adams remains the party leader.
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