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Richard Sullivan: ‘Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill chat with King Charles was an extraordinary moment’

Sinn Fein hit the high note and their recognition of the past which was reciprocated by Charles

King Charles III meeting Northern Ireland Assembly Speaker Alex Maskey and Sinn Féin Vice President Michelle O'Neill at Hillsborough Castle, Co Down.(Niall Carson/Pool via REUTERS)

King Charles III meets President Michael D Higgins (right) as they attend a Service of Reflection for Queen Elizabeth II at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast. Picture Liam McBurney/PA Wire© PA

Richard SullivanSunday World

It was extraordinary to eavesdrop on the exchange between Michelle O’Neill and the newly anointed King.

Ah listen, we can read too much into greetings at a particular time, but there is no escaping the warmth of the King’s words – almost incredulously he acknowledged the kind words of the First Minister designate.

She clasped the King’s hand and recognised the passing of an era.

This was after Assembly Speaker Alex Maskey had read a message of condolence on behalf of the Assembly

Politics is all about striking the right balance, particularly at a time of national grief.

And Sinn Fein hit the high note. Their recognition of the past which was reciprocated by Charles displayed a reading of the room that unionists missed.

By his own words to Michelle he was appreciative of what she had said about his mother in the context of reconciliation – the `R’ word.

Reconciliation is often spoken about but rarely practised.

Jeffrey, Doug, Jim and the lads have been caught napping. Things never remain the same, and when it comes to conflict resolution, learning to live with each other, that comes at a price.

Michelle, Maskey and Sinn Fein and before them Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams recognised that.

Paisley, Robinson recognised it – albeit belatedly.

The Queen – in Maskey’s eloquent words – recognised it. By all accounts one of her burning wishes was to visit Ireland, and when she did in 2011 she displayed an almost unimaginable understanding of the hurt inflicted in the name of the crown.

I hope our political leaders get it.

The death of the Monarch has concentrated minds. Northern Ireland put on her Sunday best, but what’s the point in curtseying and bowing if you don’t mean it.

And when I say ``mean it’’ I suggest we should get over frustrations and get the toys back in the pram.

It has been an extraordinary display of respect and love since the Queen passed.

But what is the point of all that if our politicians retreat to their positions.

King Charles III meets President Michael D Higgins (right) as they attend a Service of Reflection for Queen Elizabeth II at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast. Picture Liam McBurney/PA Wire© PA

We have had so many false dawns – we have to hope this isn’t another one – our politicians have been presented with another opportunity, off the back of the death of the Queen.

I suspect we will be disappointed. But it is baffling to see our political representatives chat and engage yet do nothing as the country buckles and disintegrates in the face of a crippling cost of living crisis.

The sad irony lies in the fact they can get round the table and come together in recognition of someone who made a significant contribution to bring disparate communities together.

If they want to do the Queen’s memory justice they can start by reaching their hands out to each other just as she did with Martin McGuinness.

In death the Queen has created an opening, we have spurned so many in the past, there may not be a better chance.

Open mic night at Glasgow’s Box Bar will never be the same.

You know those nights when the pub crooners who dream about selling out Glastonbury clamber on stage in front of a gaggle of boozed up punters, to bang out an out of tune version of American Pie.

Not in the Box. Put it this way next week’s aspiring superstars have a hard act to follow.

Regulars barely cast a sideways glance as the chunky lank haired singer took the mic. The atmosphere changed as Lewis Capaldi performed his new song Forget Me and promptly announced all the drinks were on him.

Class act.

It’s been a bit of week for Liz Truss – remember her?

Only a week into the job and with barely a minute to draw breath her much heralded and promised aid package for us all has been put on hold for obvious reasons.

But amid the national grieving there was a clear and stark glimpse of Truss’s UK.

Britain’s is constantly preening itself as the home of democracy and the freedom of speech that comes with it.

There was little sign of it this week as cops swooped on a number of people who thought they were exercising heir democratic right to protest.

One man was scooped for hurling abuse at the disgraced Prince Andrew, and has since been charged with a breach of the peace, although I suggest those who wrestled and kicked him to the ground might be more guilty.

And then there were those who held up blank banners in protest at being denied their right to expression.

Legislation put forward by Truss allows police to remove anyone they think is spoiling the mood.

On the bright side dissenters only have to endure a fine and a blot on their criminal record – back in the day it would have meant a stint in the Tower or losing their head.

I had the pleasure last week of visiting Kilcooley Primary School in Bangor – those kids could buy and sell you.

The occasion – aside from getting a few tips on my dress sense – was the completion of a 600 sq metre mural by street artist Christopher McGuigan.

It truly is a remarkable achievement.

If anything positive has come out of the last two and a half years it is a renewed focus on our mental wellbeing.

Something the staff at the school are acutely aware of. From ground level it is difficult to appreciate the scale of what happened here, to get a seagull’s view check out Uplift Films.

Mel C, Sporty Spice or whatever you call her has been struck off the Beckhams Christmas car list.

The former Spice Girl has published her memoir – spilling the beans on her bandmates – which I always feel is a tad treacherous.

Whatever happened to the edict – what happens on tour stays on tour – Sporty missed the memo.

She reveals that when the girls landed their first recording contract Posh got a bit squiffy to the extent she chucked her knickers out the window as a taxi took them to swanky celebration lunch.

Only to fall asleep face down in the soup.

You see Posh, if you’re going to drink you need to eat.


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