King Charles demonstrates Sinn Féin knowledge in chat with Michelle O'Neill
"What are you now, the biggest party, are you?" "Don't be telling Jeffrey (Donaldson) that now!"
King Charles III acknowledged the rise of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland while chatting to Michelle O'Neill, but the conversation was not without hilarious results.
The new monarch visited Hillsborough Castle, the official home of the Secretary of State in Northern Ireland, following the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, last week.
Charles met with both majority party leaders, Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)'s Jeffrey Donaldsonm on Tuesday (13 September).
The new king recognised Sinn Féin's recent election success, which saw the party receive the most first preference votes in May 2022.
It received 250,388 first preference votes, ahead of the DUP's 184,002.
"What are you now, the biggest party, are you?" Charles asked O'Neill.
"We are indeed, we are indeed," O'Neill replied.
"Don't be telling Jeffrey that, now!," quipped Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Sinn Féin member Alex Maskey, which drew laughter from both the king and Michelle O'Neill, standing beside a none-too-plussed Donaldson.
All that skill & ingenuity.... pic.twitter.com/kutBtNbsTH
— Debs (@DebShoes72) September 13, 2022
Despite the joke, Donaldson had high words of praise for Charles following his visit.
"It is a recognition that the king has a role in reconciliation here," the DUP leader said.
"He has demonstrated a very sharp insight into Northern Ireland and shown a great interest in the development of Hillsborough Castle.
"He is sensitive of political differences here and keen to build on reconciliation."
Michelle O'Neill shared her condolences with the Royal Family, saying that Queen Elizabeth's "life and legacy will be fondly remembered by those of a British identity here who with great pride and devotion held her very dear."
“She led by example in advancing peace and recombination and the building of relationships with those of us who are Irish, and who share a different political allegiance and aspirations to herself and her Government," O'Neill continued.
“I hope this continues now that you are King and the British-Irish relationship strengthens and evolves as one era ends, and a new one begins in these changing times.”