Statement of Condolence,
First Minister Designate, Michelle O’Neill MLA, Parliament Buildings, Stormont, 12 September 2022
Go raibh maith agat a Cheann Comhairle,
On behalf of Sinn Féin I wish to extend our condolences on the death of Queen Elizabeth II whose sorrowful loss is felt deeply by her family, and many people across our society, particularly those of a unionist and British tradition who with great pride and devotion hold Queen Elizabeth and the Royal family very dear.
Her life and legacy will be fondly remembered by many people around the world.
You will agree that it was a mammoth achievement to have marked 70 years of dedicated public service to the British people when she celebrated her Platinum Jubilee earlier this year.
Today I wish to record the value and respect I place on the significant contribution Queen Elizabeth made to the advancement of peace and reconciliation between the different traditions on our island, and between Ireland and Britain during the years of the peace process.
It is appropriate that this is rightfully recognised in this Chamber today.
I recognise that she was a courageous and gracious leader.
When the late Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness and I met Queen Elizabeth in Belfast in 2012 during her Diamond Jubilee, and thereafter at Windsor Castle during the State Visit of President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins to Britain in 2014 her warmth, kindness and unfailing courtesy towards us was truly appreciated.
The important symbolism of these encounters by both sides was understood and designed to positively show leadership, and in a practical way give example towards reconciliation.
They were pointing to the peaceful future overwhelmingly endorsed by the people through their expressed support for the Good Friday Agreement, while acknowledging the regrettable divisions and tragedies of the past.
In doing so it was an acknowledgment of the substantial differences between our continuing, and equally legitimate, political aspirations.
She made real efforts, and in good faith to build relationships with those of us who are Irish, and who share a different political allegiance to herself and her Government, and who wish to exercise our right to self-determination based on consent to achieve reunification and a shared island for all.
There is an onus on us all in politics and public life, but also the whole community to follow her example and strengthen the bonds of friendship that will bring people and communities together.
For too long we have lived back to back, and we must do more to start living side by side building trust and showing mutual respect.
As the incoming First Minister elect of the Northern Ireland Executive I will take every opportunity to extend the hand of friendship, and renew this spirit of co-operation with the British King Charles III, and also the people and traditions – British and Irish – to which he and I proudly represent.
Having met him in County Cork back in 2018 alongside Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD we discussed the evolving relationship between Ireland and Britain, and how reconciliation must be at the centre of all we do as we move forward in these changing times.
Mr Speaker, the passing of Queen Elizabeth II marks the end of an historic era in our lifetime.
I sincerely wish to acknowledge the sorrow, and the huge sense of grief and loss many, many people will be feeling at this time across our community, and of course in this House today – elected representatives, but also workers here in the Assembly and across the Public and Civil Service.
I offer my sincere sympathies and condolences to you all and do so in true friendship.
May she rest in peace.
Go raibh maith agaibh.