McGuinness to attend royal reception

Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness is expected to attend a reception hosted by the Queen at Windsor Castle today.

The event, part of the historic state visit by Irish president Michael D Higgins, is for a range of irish and British individuals who have made a significant contribution to furthering co-operation and mutual understanding across the island of Ireland, and/or public service, enterprise and cultural life in the North.

Mr McGuinness’ attendance at a state banquet at the invitation of the Queen on Tuesday led to a political row after former Conservative chairman Norman Tebbit said: “There’s always the possibility that a member of the Real IRA will be so outraged by Mr McGuinness bowing to the Queen that they might shoot him in the back for it. We can but hope.”

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said it was unacceptable for a member of the House of the Lords to support the shooting of a political leader.

“I fully understand that Norman Tebbit has himself been a victim of the political conflict and I regret that he has suffered grievously,” said Mr Adams, a former West Belfast MP and now TD for Louth in the Irish parliament.

“However, to publicly advocate the assassination of Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness is a shocking throwback to a violent past from which we are seeking to move on.”

Mr Adams said his party colleague and ex-IRA commander Mr McGuinness has worked tirelessly to ensure the success of the peace process at considerable risk to himself.

Lord Tebbit was injured with his wife during the 1984 IRA bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton.

It is extremely rare for the Queen to host a second reception – in addition to the banquet – during a state visit. This is being seen as a sign of the importance the Queen attributes to the president’s trip, following her own state visit to Ireland, with the Duke of Edinburgh, in 2011.

The president and his wife Sabina will begin the third day of their visit by going to Food Animal Initiative (FAI) Farms, Oxford, where they will be briefed on sustainability initiatives in Britain and Ireland.

They will go on to Park House Stables, Kingsclere, Newbury, where they will be received by trainer Andrew Balding and his wife Anna Lisa.

Mr and Mrs Higgins will meet trainers, jockeys and other staff and visit the tack room, the yard and training areas.

The reception at Windsor Castle is in the afternoon, while in the evening the couple will attend Ceiliuradh (Celebration) at the Royal Albert Hall – an Irish cultural concert of music, spoken word and dance. They will be joined by Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.

Some of Ireland’s finest musicians, singers, actors, authors and poets will feature, celebrating the strength and range of collaboration and creativity between Ireland and the UK and the contribution of the Irish community in Britain.

Names confirmed are Paul Brady, The Gloaming, Glen Hansard, and Imelda May.

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