When it was announced that the Queen was to visit Northern Ireland as part of her Diamond Jubilee tour, there was a bit of flim-flam in the papers about what sort of security would be laid on. When, several days ago, it was announced that Maj would be meeting Martin McGuinness, deputy first minister, there was a gasp -- and then the universal rush for the gag. "What do you do?" "Well, I don't join the IRA, your majesty, that's for sure." "What do you do?" "Several of your relatives, etc. Private Eye nailed it with its cover, featuring Maj in full bomb-disposal gear, complete with diving helmet headpiece. Nice hat, ma'am.
The Queen's visit was always going to be a nightmare for the royal family itself, and for Sinn Fein. The party's strategy of enthusiastically participating in government -- with, at one point, Ian Paisley and McGuinness effectively sharing the first ministry of the province -- has already involved it in a whole series of sticky symbolic situations, how to stand during God Save The Queen, dealing with the police force (the PSNI, replacing the RUC), etc.