By David Young, PA
Former Northern Ireland first minister Arlene Foster has welcomed a Sinn Féin move to write to Queen Elizabeth on the occasion of the Platinum Jubilee.
Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill wrote to the British queen to praise her “significant” contribution to the peace process and to acknowledge her “dedicated public service to the British people” during her 70 years on the throne.
Ms O’Neill thanked the queen for her “warmth and unfailing courtesy” on the occasions when the pair have met and wrote of the “value and respect” she had for the monarch’s contribution to reconciliation.
Former DUP leader Mrs Foster praised Ms O’Neill’s gesture.
“Obviously, I very much welcome it,” she told BBC Radio Ulster.
Mrs Foster, who served alongside Ms O’Neill at the head of the Stormont Executive, said the Platinum Jubilee celebrated three things – the queen’s public service and dedication; the institution of the monarchy; and the concept of Britishness.
She added: “I think for republicans, like Michelle O’Neill, like Nicola Sturgeon, they have recognised in Her Majesty the Queen the first of those, the fact that she has given so much service to the country.
“They’re recognising that and I think that that is something that is to be welcomed.”
Ms O’Neill’s letter to the queen, which was sent last month and reported by the Belfast Telegraph on Thursday, read: “I thought it best to write to you personally as you mark 70 years of dedicated public service to the British people as monarch.
“Your Platinum Jubilee is an historic moment, especially for all those from the unionist and British tradition on the island of Ireland, and across these islands whom with great pride and devotion hold you very dear.
“Personally, I wish to thank you for your warmth and unfailing courtesy on the occasions in which both I and my late colleague, Martin McGuinness, met with you in Belfast in 2012 during your Diamond Jubilee, and thereafter at Windsor Castle during the state visit of President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins to the UK in 2014.
“I wish to record the value and respect I place on the significant contribution you have made to the advancement of peace and reconciliation between the different traditions on our island, and between our two islands during those years of the peace process.
“As incoming First Minister of the Northern Ireland Executive I, like you, will take every opportunity to strengthen the bonds of friendship and renew the spirit of co-operation between those of us in the world of politics and public life from different traditions, and also the people and communities we proudly represent.”