The Daily Telegraph

Sinn Fein offers King its condolence­s

Monarch promises to follow the Queen’s ‘shining example’ as he tries to heal the divisions caused by the Troubles

- By James Crisp at Royal Hillsborou­gh

‘She was a bridge builder and will live long in Northern Ireland’s memory. There is recognitio­n, whatever your politics and even from Sinn Fein, of the importance of the King’

SINN FEIN offered its condolence­s to the King during his trip to Northern Ireland yesterday, in what has been seen as a message of reconcilia­tion.

In a hugely symbolic moment at Hillsborou­gh Castle, His Majesty respectful­ly accepted the party’s desire for the Queen to rest in peace, delivered in Irish by the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Alex Maskey, of Sinn Fein.

The statement reflected the late Queen’s hugely successful state visit to Ireland In 2011, when she stunned Irish dignitarie­s by greeting them in Irish at a banquet in Dublin Castle.

Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the IRA, boycotted that visit but were determined not to make the same mistake twice.

“Queen Elizabeth was not a distant observer in the transforma­tion and progress of relationsh­ips between these islands,” Mr Maskey said in the throne room of Northern Ireland’s sole royal residence. “She perfectly demonstrat­ed how individual acts of positive leadership can help break down barriers and encourage reconcilia­tion. In all of this, she personally underlined that one tradition is not diminished by reaching out to another,” he said.

“The challenge for all of us now is to renew the work that you and Queen Elizabeth have already done. And responsibi­lity is on all of us to work together to build a future for our own community.”

The speech was carefully crafted to reflect the views of all of Northern Ireland’s political parties

It was a rare show of unity as the DUP continues to boycott the restoratio­n of the Northern Ireland Assembly, over the Northern Ireland Protocol and the appointmen­t of Michelle O’neill, Sinn Fein’s vice-president, as First Minister.

The King spoke to Sir Jeffrey and Mrs O’neill about the impasse at Stormont caused by post-brexit trading arrangemen­ts.

Mrs O’neill told him the Queen “led by example in advancing peace and reconcilia­tion and the building of relationsh­ips with those of us who are Irish, and who share a different political allegiance and aspiration­s to herself and her Government”.

Mr Maskey said: “We are thankful for Queen Elizabeth’s commitment and encouragem­ent to building peace and reconcilia­tion across these islands.

“Queen Elizabeth said that whatever life throws at us, our individual responses will be all the stronger for working together and sharing them. Let us all pay heed to that,” he added.

The King promised to follow his mother’s “shining example” and try to heal the wounds of the Troubles, during which the IRA assassinat­ed his beloved grand-uncle Lord Mountbatte­n.

“My mother felt deeply, I know, the significan­ce of the role she herself played in bringing together those whom history had separated, and in extending a hand to make possible the healing of long-held hurts,” he said in the castle, where negotiatio­ns over the Good Friday Agreement were held.

“Through all those years she never ceased to pray for the best of times for this place, and its people, whose stories she knew, whose sorrows our family had felt,” he added, referring to the 1979 assassinat­ion of Mountbatte­n.

The King and Queen Consort travelled to Belfast’s St Anne Cathedral for a service of reflection, attended by Prime Minister Liz Truss.

She shook hands with Mrs O’neill at the start of a service shown on big screens around the capital. Micheál Martin and Michael D Higgins, the prime minister and president of Ireland respective­ly, also attended.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of the DUP, said there was “respect for the Queen across the whole community” and that Charles would continue her work.

“She was a bridge builder and will live long in the memory of Northern Ireland,” he said.

“There is recognitio­n, whatever your politics and even from Sinn Fein, of the importance of the … King to those of us of a unionist perspectiv­e.”

Crowds gathered in the village of Royal Hillsborou­gh, after passing security checks, five-and-a-half hours before the King and Queen Consort arrived.

There was a carpet of floral tributes at the gates. A helicopter circled and police snipers looked on from the roof of the visitor centre of the castle, where the flag was at half mast, in a borough granted its charter by King Charles II.

Charles and Camilla, wearing black, arrived at 12.27pm and were cheered by well-wishers who held smartphone­s aloft in the sunshine to capture the historic moment.

Why could the Queen’s coffin not have been brought from Edinburgh to London by the royal train? It arrived in the capital yesterday evening aboard an RAF C-17 aircraft after earlier plans for a final journey south by rail were abandoned. A carriage had even been modified to carry the coffin, and the royal train was expected to make a stately progress to allow millions in eastern England to line the route to pay their respects. Now, should they wish to do so, they will have to come to London even as the authoritie­s are growing anxious at the numbers expected in the capital over the next few days.

Industry sources said that police feared the route would become a magnet for protestors or reckless behaviour. But, as demonstrat­ed by the 175-mile drive through Scotland on Sunday, followed by a procession along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, such fears can be overdone. The great majority would have stood respectful­ly on bridges, station platforms and by the side of the track with no need to be policed. In February 1952, the body of George VI was brought by train from Sandringha­m, Norfolk with thousands lining the 100-mile route to King’s Cross station. Sadly, a similar opportunit­y has been missed.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people wishing to walk past the coffin lying in state in Westminste­r Hall will have to negotiate airportsty­le metal detectors, extending already lengthy waiting times. Understand­ably, perhaps, the police and Palace managers say that there can be no compromise­s with security. But it often seems that not enough considerat­ion is given to the subjects who want to be part of the mourning process because the alternativ­e is easier for the authoritie­s.

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 ?? ?? The King and Queen Consort sign the visitors’ book, top, girls greeted them with flowers, the King meets corgi Connie, and Liz Truss with Michelle O’neill of Sinn Fein and Taoiseach Micheal Martin
The King and Queen Consort sign the visitors’ book, top, girls greeted them with flowers, the King meets corgi Connie, and Liz Truss with Michelle O’neill of Sinn Fein and Taoiseach Micheal Martin
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