Martin McGuinness yesterday said he had no qualms about standing and joining in a toast to the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the people of the UK as an orchestra played God Save The Queen during Tuesday night’s state banquet at Windsor Castle.
“I went to Windsor Castle last night as an unapologetic Irish republican, and I’m still an unapologetic Irish republican this morning,” said the Sinn Fein chief yesterday.
“So I think it is possible to do these things, particularly in the context of a very clear indicator that others – such as Queen Elizabeth in her visit to our country, both to Belfast and to the south – were prepared to show impressive leadership in the context of conflict resolution and acts of reconciliation.”
He added: “I believe I have the overwhelming support of the people of Ireland for what I did last night.”
Mr McGuinness said he understood the pain of people affected by the Troubles and defended their right to protest at his attendance.
“I understand that people are hurting as a result of the fallout from the conflict and many in my community – in the republican, nationalist community – are also hurting as a result of the conflict,” he said.
“Different sections of that community come to this at different speeds.”
Mr McGuinness also revealed he “had a word” with Prime Minister David Cameron over “inaction” in the Irish peace process.