Support for McGuinness handshake

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
June 29, 2012, 4:19 PM GMT+0

54% Britons say NI Deputy First Minister right to shake Queen's hand; 25% say it was wrong move

Our poll of English, Welsh and Scottish adults has found that overall, the majority believes that Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness was right to shake Queen Elizabeth II's hand during her visit to the country this week.

The handshake was seen as highly significant given that Sinn Fein have previously boycotted all of the Queen's visits to Northern Ireland.

  • Over half (54%) said that it was right for Martin McGuinness and Queen Elizabeth II to shake hands
  • Compared to 25% who thought it was wrong, and one in five (20%) who weren't sure

"Momentous and historical"

The handshake, which happened in Belfast on Wednesday this week as part of the Queen's visit, was reportedly very cordial with none of the old tensions traditionally characterising relations between Sinn Fein and the British establishment. McGuinness himself has spoken of the gesture in especially friendly terms, calling it "momentous and historical" and a symbol of "a new relationship between Britain and Ireland and between the Irish people themselves".

Conflict and reconciliation

Notwithstanding, the former IRA member still criticised the British government and Prime Minister David Cameron for a "lack of engagement" and a failing to address certain remaining controversies surrounding "the legacy of conflict", including, he said, refusing to hold an inquiry into the 1971 'Ballymurphy massacre', in which 11 people died.

McGuinness also referred directly to the nations' bloody pasts, saying "every single violent act was evidence of a failure of politics and a failure of British policy in Ireland [...] and I genuinely regret every single life that was lost during that conflict".

But the Deputy First Minister was also very keen to reiterate that the handshake was an important part of "the national reconciliation process".

"I hope many will accept [the handshake] in the same spirit it was offered," he said.

See the survey details and full results