Adams softens position on visit of queen

SINN FÉIN president Gerry Adams has all but welcomed the visit of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth to Ireland next week, saying he hoped it would strengthen ties between the countries.

In a remarkably conciliatory statement issued last night, the TD for Louth and East Meath said the visit provides a unique opportunity for the British establishment to display its support for better relations between the two islands.

He said that if such was the case “it will be a matter of considerable pleasure, not just for her Majesty, but for the rest of us as well”.

The tone and content of his remarks are in almost total contrast to the objections he voiced in February during the General Election campaign. In an interview broadcast on February 9 by Sinn Féin’s television service, he said the visit was inadvisable, premature and would be too expensive to host. Only last month his deputy Mary Lou McDonald outlined preparations being made by Sinn Féin for protests at the visit.

A number of the party’s TDs and councillors have also raised objections and voiced their intention of engaging in public demonstrations next week.

However, in last night’s statement Mr Adams emphasised the good he hoped would come from the visit.

“I want to see a real and meaningfully new and better relationship between the peoples of Ireland and Britain,” he said.

“Republicans have been to the forefront in working to bring this about and we will continue to do so.

“The visit by the Queen of England provides a unique opportunity for the British establishment to make it clear that this is its intention also.

“I am for a new relationship between the people of Ireland and between the people of Ireland and Britain based on equality and mutual respect.

“I hope this visit will hasten that day but much will depend on what the British monarch says. As an Irish citizen who was detained without charge or trial a number of times on a British prison ship, in a prison camp and H Block, as well as a more conventional prison, at ‘Her Majesty’s Pleasure’, I hope so.”

Mr Adams spoke warmly of ties between the countries. “Ireland and England are not strangers to each other,” he said, urging both nations to “build on what we have in common while at the same time respecting each other’s sovereignty and independence”.

Mr Adams alluded to the necessity to embrace diversity, including “the sense of Britishness felt by many unionists”.

The British Foreign Office declined to respond and the Northern Ireland Office and office of First Minister Peter Robinson were unavailable for comment.

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