McGuinness in ‘toast to Queen’ row

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DEPUTY First Minister Martin McGuinness has been accused of walking out of a prestigious City of London dinner in order to avoid toasting the Queen.

The event, at the Guildhall in London, was organised to help bring investment and jobs to the north west of Northern Ireland.

Sinn Fein has declined to comment on the matter.

The dinner, which took place on Wednesday evening, was arranged by Invest Northern Ireland, The City of London Corporation and The Honourable The Irish Society.

East Londonderry DUP MP Gregory Campbell attended the event and said he saw Mr McGuinness exit the function room for several minutes during a toast to the Queen, which he said was clearly marked on the evening’s programme.

Mr Campbell also accused Derry City Council Mayor Kevin Campbell –also of Sinn Fein – of walking out with Mr McGuinness.

Mr Campbell said: “This must have been choreographed for Martin McGuinness and the Mayor of Derry City Council. There was no comfort break and the toast was clearly marked on the programme. They were also both sitting at different tables.

“They were only away from their tables for about two minutes. The toast itself took about 15 seconds and then they appeared back at their respective tables after it was over.

“What is interesting is that Martin McGuinness is content to shake hands with the Queen when she came to Belfast but now when he goes to London he is not prepared to wait for a few seconds to toast the lady whose hand he shook.”

Mr Campbell said the exit of the Sinn Fein members was not conspicuous and rejected any suggestion that his drawing attention to the matter could undermine investment prospects from the event.

“I don’t think that at all. I think that the petty vindictive act itself is likely to [undermine investment], rather than my drawing attention to it,” he added.

The dinner was also attended by Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, First Minister Peter Robinson, Minister of Enterprise Arlene Foster and Lord Mayor of City of London Alderman Roger Gifford.