You have got to feel some sympathy for the Queen, as everyone seems to have an opinion on her forthcoming ‘handshake’, ‘nod’, ‘wink’ or ‘smile’ at Martin McGuiness. Whatever it is, it wont be recorded for prosperity and no-one will know if the poor woman wants to be there or not. Of course over her sixty years on the throne of England, her Majesty has shook hands with all kinds of dodgy characters and some of them she may have actually liked. She certainly has knighted at least one or two crooks and at least one spy.

While the actual being in the same place at the same time between the Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister and the Queen will be significant for its symbolism and mark of political maturity- it has all been rather over played by both Sinn Fein and a politically starved media. Sinn Fein has milked their ‘will we- wont we’ for so long that the only people who really give a fiddler about the handshake now are Sinn Fein and perhaps their ex-colleagues in RAAD. And the timing could n’t be better as Sinn Fein spin-doctors are masters at deflecting from their woes. Just as former Minister, Conor Murphy gets slapped down by an Employment Tribunal and up pops an opportunity to take the heat off him and more importantly to take him off the front pages of the newspaper.

So meeting ‘Betty Windsor’ as one cynical Sinn Fein spokesperson said last week won’t make Martin McGuinness any less of a republican than it will diminish Mrs. Windsor’s position as Queen. Leaving aside the snideness of the remark, why then has Sinn Fein been slagging and pillorying off everyone else who has met the Queen for the past thirty years? Meetings with people of different political outlooks rarely changes or diminishes a person’s own beliefs.  The hullabaloo over meeting the Queen is just another glaring example of Sinn Fein playing catch-up on normality.  In fact their own mayor of Cashel showed more leadership, courage and foresight than the entire Sinn Fein Ard Comhairle when he met the Queen on her State visit to Ireland.

At least he demonstrated he could think for himself and not wait for the politburo to tell him what to think. As is the way in Northern Ireland Sinn Fein’s operations often slip under the media’s radar lest they disrupt the now sixteen-year-old peace process. Down South no such rules of gentlemanly politeness exist.  The Republic’s media having kicked the life out of Fianna Fail have now turned their attentions to Sinn Fein’s largesse with public funds.  Apart from using enough ink and paper to re-write and re-print the Bible in about two hundred languages, Sinn Fein it appears siphons of tens of thousands of publically provided Euros for the party machine and the political patronage of providing part-time jobs for volunteers.

Of course not everyone in the Sinn Fein camp seems totally happy with the idea for working for a political collective. One new Sinn Fein TD complained that living on Ard Comhairle’s set industrial wage in the Republic of Î34k meant she had hardly enough money to buy make-up.  On 34k euro- I am sure many readers will be wondering how much make up she needs? Apparently the party takes two thirds of her salary and that does buy a lot of makeovers; never mind make up.

The Sinn Fein TD in question may be relatively new to the diktats from the Belfast based Connolly House. It seems she was formerly a SIPTU shop steward and it was recently revealed the SIPTU leader apparently earns €124k. Perhaps there would have been better career rewards sticking with SIPTU? Who knows because two other trade union leaders in the Republic seemingly earn €126k and €155k each.

An unnamed Sinn Fein spokesperson said that the industrial wage policy was being kept under review. There is no doubt that Sinn Fein has travelled light years in terms of peace policy. Their leaders deserve much credit for that journey, as it has not been without personal risk.  However they resent media and public comment and are scornful of any criticism.  What they don’t control they attack or deride.  Many of the Sinn Fein public representatives are hugely personable and that is part of their voter appeal, but it’s time the near Stalin like grip on the organization is loosened. Sinn Fein needs an internal revolution, as its leadership is starting to look more Papal than Presidential.