Queen Elizabeth II is quite the the charmer, but her latest fan may come as a surprise to everyone. Former Irish Republican Army (IRA) commander and Sinn Fein’s deputy first minister Martin McGuinness admitted to the world that he likes the Queen.
McGuinness’ history with Great Britain is checkered with accusations of violence, condemnation, and imprisonment. In the Bloody Friday incident that left 13 protestors dead, an English court declared that he was “engaged in paramilitary activity.” In 1983, McGuinness was caught with hundreds of pounds of explosives and ammunition, and was tried by a court he refused to recognize. He even spent time in the infamous Crumlin Road prison.
Despite all that conflict, when it comes to Queen Elizabeth, McGuinness just can’t help but admit his respect. Martin originally met the Queen in 2012 in Belfast at an event designed to promote reconciliation between the two countries. It was at that meeting that McGuinness shook hands with Queen Elizabeth, starting a new chapter in Irish-Anglo relations.
When speaking to a BBC documentary crew about his historic handshake he admitted, “I liked her courage in agreeing to meet with me; I liked the engagements that I’ve had with her. There’s nothing I have seen in my engagements with her that this is someone I should dislike, I like her.”
While in Belfast, McGuinness even gave Elizabeth II a tour of his former prison Crumlin Road Gaol. McGuinness explained that both he and the Queen are prepared to rise above any ill-will created from the conflict.
“I know who Queen Elizabeth represents. I know she’s the head of the British state. I know she has all sorts of titles in relation to different regiments in the British army. She knows my history. She knows I was a member of the IRA. She knows I was in conflict with her soldiers, yet both of us were prepared to rise above all of that.”
McGuinness has made numerous efforts to bolster the peace, and perhaps his blossoming friendship with the Queen. According to Independent.ie, McGuinness attended a banquet at Windsor Castle hosted by Queen Elizabeth II in honor of Irish president Michael D Higgins. During that event, he even participated in a toast to the monarch while the orchestra played “God Save the Queen.”
An amazing turnaround for a political leader who once refused to sit in the House of Commons because he would have to swear an oath of allegiance to Queen Elizabeth.
[Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls]