The Queen and Martin McGuinness in historic handshake
Momentous meeting in Belfast theatre
ANGLO-IRISH relations took a momentous step forward today when the Queen shook hands with Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness.
The historic encounter between the former IRA commander – now Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister – and the Queen took place in the McGrath Suite at Belfast’s Lyric theatre.
The Deputy First Minister was said to have commented briefly on the Queen’s visit to Dublin last year, and in particular her comments regarding all the victims of the conflict.
Asked how David Cameron viewed the handshake, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said today: “Clearly, there was a visit by Her Majesty to the Republic of Ireland last year.
“That has taken relations between the two countries to a new level.”
Sinn Fein said Mr McGuinness told the Queen their meeting was a “powerful signal that peace-building requires leadership”.
The two were joined by the Duke of Edinburgh, Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson, Irish President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina.
And the Deputy First Minister praised the role of the President in today’s encounter.
The historic meeting would have been almost unthinkable a little more than 10 years ago. Mr McGuinness was a senior member of the IRA when it killed the Queen’s cousin Lord Mountbatten in a bomb blast in 1979.
The Queen is the head of Britain’s armed forces, seen in the past by Republicans as occupying troops in Northern Ireland.
But the success of the peace process and the Queen’s acclaimed visit to the Republic of Ireland last year paved the way for today’s meeting.
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