Wednesday, 4th July 2012
Sometimes when historical events happen there is a certain inevitability about them and they don't really come as a surprise. However there are other moments that do come as a surprise. The handshake between Martin McGuinness and Queen Elizabeth was certainly one of those things. When it was first announced that not only were the two to meet but also that they would have that very symbolic handshake the news was greeted by a round of positive responses from all sides of the political spectrum. Naturally enough, die hards on both sides of the historic nationalist/unionist divide did not approve but they were noticeable by their silence if nothing else. When the actual handshake did take place, there were two handshakes one in private and one in public that the cameras caught, it seemed as if there had never been anything between these two people and what they represented. Much was made of the fact that the Queen's cousin Lord Mountbatten was killed by the I.R.A. an organisation of which Martin McGuinness was very high up in but it seemed as if everything had been put aside and that a very definite and considered step forward has been made. Even though the Queen herself had this personal step to make it appeared though as if the really big move was being made by Sinn Fein. It has consistently taken a hard line stance that it would never have anything to do with the British Crown which represents everything that it stands against. Now however on mature reflection it appears to be softening its stance but as Martin McGuinness said as he was leaving the reception where that historic handshake had taken place that he was still a republican. No major positions have changed. Sinn Fein still is a 32 county republican organisation and the Queen is still Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. But what has changed is that, for want of a better term people have grown up a little and hopefully will not be so dogmatic in their attitudes and outlooks. The vast, vast majority of people in Northern Ireland want peace but perhaps more importantly they want that peace to work for them in terms of quality of life.
This move from a theoretical peace to a tangible one will be one of the hardest things to achieve and will be the real test of all of these symbolic steps that are being taken by those in power in what ever section of the community in Northern Ireland. The further news that the I.R.A. might soon be issuing an apology to all its victims during the Troubles is a further step down the road to a real and lasting peace. It seems that when the I.R.A. moves it moves decisively, it might be slow in doing it but when it does something it really does something of some value. The interesting thing is that not only will all of this have significance in the North but it also will have significance down here where Sinn Fein are building a very solid electoral base. Sinn Fein as it repeatedly says is a 32 county party but for a long time it has been mainly associated with the North and everything that has been going on there. Now however it is increasingly becoming one of the main parties down here in the South. It did well in the General Election and the Presidential Election certainly increased its profile as well as its voter base. It is extremely active in the Opposition and thanks to two or three very good performers on its benches is constantly in the news. The current role that it is taking in the North will not hurt its election chances down here at all, far from it. Showing itself to be a party of peace it cannot help but reap some reward from that. It might happen sooner than most people think but very soon, at least in election terms, it could find itself in a position of real power which considering its position just 20 years ago is little short of miraculous. Whatever the eventual outcome may or may not be for Sinn Fein the fact is that the handshake between McGuinness and the Queen was a tangible result of some really long and hard work over many years. It might have taken a few seconds but it was years in the making. It is now a time to see what the next step will be, whether the I.R.A. will come out with that apology. It might take some time to come and if it does come it will be interesting to see what form it will take. But for now it is enough to sit back and reflect on what power there is behind a handshake.
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Google AlertWhen a company which has it's European Headquarters here in Ireland is called 'evil' and 'immoral' by M.P.s in The House of Commons you tend to sit up and take notice. The particular company that was being referred to was Google and the reason it had enraged M.P.s in London was because even though it has a big operation there and conducts a lot of business there it pays no corporate tax. It does this by having all of its financial transactions finished here in Ireland. And the company here is …
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