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Comment 27 JUNE 2012

Historic handshake for Queen and Martin McGuinness

27 JUNE 2012

Following a successful first day on her tour of Northern Ireland, the Queen has met former IRA commander Martin McGuinness – who is now Deputy First Minister.

While the intitial introductions at Belfast's Lyric Theatre were private, the sovereign shook hands with Mr McGuinness in front of cameras. 





History unfolded amid tight security, and no members of the public were allowed within a mile of the venue.

Also present inside the Lyric Theatre were Irish President Michael D Higgins, his wife Sabina and Northern Ireland's First Minister, Peter Robinson.

The Duke of Edinburgh was also on hand to support his wife as she made the peaceful gesture.

As they parted, Mr McGuinness spoke to the Queen in Irish and told her the words meant: "Goodbye and God speed."

The meeting is a defining moment in cementing harmonious Anglo-Irish relationships, and builds on the success of last year's royal visit to the Republic of Ireland in 2011.

Wednesday's exchange was organised by Co-Operation Ireland – who work to foster peace in the region.

Chief executive, Peter Sheridan said the handshake was "hugely significant".

"From my perspective it's a huge act of reconciliation, you cannot underestimate how important this is," he added.

"Whoever would have thought we would ever be in this situation - I think it says a lot about healing, human dignity and treating each other with respect."

The event also carries personal significance for the Queen and the royal family, who have been affected by the conflict.

Prince Philip's uncle, Lord Mountbatten, died in 1979 after a bomb was placed on his fishing boat in Mullaghmore, Ireland.


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