Republic of Ireland news

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald congratulates Queen Elizabeth on ‘lifetime of service'

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Jonathan McCambridge and David Young, PA

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has passed on her congratulations to Queen Elizabeth on a “lifetime of service” on her Platinum Jubilee.

Mrs McDonald was reacting to the news that a tree is to be planted in the grounds of Parliament Buildings at Stormont to mark the jubilee.

The republican party leader said: “I think it is important that we are respectful of the identity of our citizens who are British.

“I think that is entirely appropriate and I welcome that decision.

“For those who will celebrate the jubilee, I wish them well and a good jubilee and for those of us that don’t I believe we are now big enough, bold enough, generous enough to acknowledge the identity of others.”

She added: “Can I also extend to the British Queen a word of congratulations because 70 years is quite some record.

“That is what you call a lifetime of service.”

But referencing an earlier decision by a Sinn Fein minister to deny permission for a tree to be planted at Stormont, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said unionists were tired of the “disrespect” of their culture.

He said: “Well the Assembly Commission has taken this decision and it is regrettable that the Finance Minister (Conor Murphy) previously indicated that he was not prepared to agree to a tree being planted in the grounds of Stormont to mark Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee.

“I welcome the fact that the Assembly Commission has now decided that a tree may be planted, that is a good thing.

“But I think unionists are tired of the lack of respect for our tradition, our culture, our identity, and they want to see an end to this disrespect.”

Permission was granted by the Assembly Commission this week for the tree planting.

The commission, made up of representatives of the main Stormont parties, has responsibility for Parliament Buildings.

Last month, Finance Minister Conor Murphy ordered a review of the policy of which events can be commemorated in the Stormont estate following a row over a decision to prevent the tree planting.

The DUP had called for an equality investigation and accused Mr Murphy of “intolerance and disrespect”.

DUP Assembly member Joanne Bunting had originally sought permission to plant the tree on the estate as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy project, an initiative that encourages people across the UK to “Plant a Tree for the Jubilee”.

Mr Murphy, whose department has responsibility for the grounds of the Stormont estate, insisted that official policy dictated that only “international events” could be commemorated with physical structures or planting.

He then decided to review that policy.

Last year, Sinn Féin vetoed a proposal put to the Assembly Commission to place a commemorative stone in Stormont’s Parliament Buildings to mark Northern Ireland’s centenary.

Sinn Féin insisted the stone had been “designed and commissioned by representatives of one tradition” and accused unionists of failing to consult with other parties about their plan.

Last year, Mr Murphy also turned down a DUP request to plant a commemorative rose bush to mark Northern Ireland’s centenary within the Stormont estate.

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