A handy snap…but much ado about nothing

DID YOU see the big news story up North today?

Hollywood star Bill Murray teed off with Graeme McDowell in a pro-am ahead of Irish Open at Portrush.

Elsewhere an ageing ex-terrorist shook an old lady’s hand.

Fair play to Martin McGuinness, though.

Because, as comedian Frankie Boyle pointed out, it’s always difficult to make smalltalk with old folk, especially your old mates have blown up their cousin.

Queen Elizabeth II meets Martin McGuinness in Belfast, June 27, 2011.

Or their husband’s cousin, as McGuinness’ IRA colleagues did when they assassinated Prince Phiilip’s relative Lord Louis Mountbatten in 1979.

That murder was one of a number of reasons why the Queen might have chosen a fairway at Portrush ahead of a meeting with a man playing off a serious handicap – a brutal terrorist past.

Another reason might have been the attempt of McGuinness’ pals to blow up her Government’s Cabinet, en masse, by bombing the Grand Hotel in Brighton five years later.

In fact there are any number of good reasons why the British monarch could have passed over Mr McGuinness hand today.

But she didn’t. And that’s to her credit, not to Sinn Fein’s and certainly not to Martin McGuinness.

The party has spent the past month staging a PR blitz, sorry, ‘debate’, on whether their ex-IRA figurehead should go ahead with the meet’n’greet.

The result was never in doubt. The handshake was always on, but the debate provided plenty of news coverage, much of it lauding Sinn Fein for making such a magnanimous gesture.

The fact that an elected Sinn Fein mayor shook the Queen’s hand on her visit here a year ago, which rendered much of the debate null and void anyway, was quietly ignored by the spindoctors.

This was another poster moment for the party, which would provide with a handy filip in polls down South. It could do with it too, after last weekend’s Red C poll saw them drop three points.

That’s the plan at least. But it remains to be seen if it will play out that way.

Because the dignified way in which Elizabeth Windsor has handled matters shows McGuinness and his party pals in a grubby light.

In the end it was, of course, much ado about nothing.

Publicity hungry Martin took his place in a line of a dozen others, had his three seconds chit-chat, was flashed a smile, and that was that. Over and out. Back to the golf.

This post first appeared in the Evening Herald, June 27, 2012

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