Mixed unionist reaction to banquet

Deputy Frist Minister Martin McGuinness at the banquet at Windsor Castle
Deputy Frist Minister Martin McGuinness at the banquet at Windsor Castle

Unionists gave a mixed reaction to Martin McGuinness’ presence at Windsor Castle.

North Down DUP MLA Peter Weir said he knew “victims of PIRA terrorism understandably found it very difficult to watch Martin McGuinness attend the State function”.

“It is high time that he told the truth about the past and helped victims rather than ignoring his role in the PIRA or hiding behind oaths.”

Mr Weir said the occasion “should not be focused on Sinn Fein”. “We should note the historic nature of this event for the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. It is positive that this relationship is normalised.”

He added that Sinn Fein was “out of step with their electorate in the Republic of Ireland when they boycotted Her Majesty The Queen’s visit to the Republic”. “Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland is being directed by their Southern leadership, so having been on the wrong side once, they were not prepared to let it happen again,” he said.

“Martin McGuinness would have been directed by his Southern leadership to order his white tie and tails. It is clear nothing is beyond these so-called republicans when it comes to getting votes.”

Meanwhile Ulster Unionist party leader Mike Nesbitt welcomed the speeches made by the Queen and President Michael D Higgins during the Windsor Castle banquet.

He said: “The Queen continues to show true leadership, calling for us all to shed the inhibitions that restrict us from fully embracing each other. As I reflect on her words of praise for the contribution of Irish people in shaping the island called Great Britain, a contribution I am happy to acknowledge, I look forward to the day when we can all equally acknowledge the positive contribution Unionists have made to shaping the island called Ireland.

“Simply, if Britain is better for the Irish presence, surely Ireland is better for the input of the British.”

TUV leader Jim Allister said when watching news reports of Martin McGuinness “attending the Royal banquet my thoughts were with the innocent victims of IRA violence who protested outside”.

He said the protestors included Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was one of 21 people murdered in the Birmingham Pub Bombings.

“The money spent on the banquet would have been much better invested in an investigation into the Birmingham Bombings – something the Hambleton family were told this week will not happen,” he said.